Teamwork, extra funding help firefighters brave blazes

Lawton_Comanche County firefighters and property owners can relax after last weekend's massive grass fire.  A lot of grass burned, but no lives or homes were lost.

About 6,000 acres were burned in the fire Saturday afternoon east of Lawton near East 90th Street and Trail Road.  The blaze started in the afternoon and continued into the early evening.  Forty five homes in the path of the fire had to be evacuated as firefighters from 27 different departments fought to save them.

While there was no loss of life, the firefighter's efforts did come at a price.  With the nearly 30 departments working together, you can bet there was wear and tear on equipment - not to mention the high fuel cost.

When a grass fire lasts nearly four hours, you can be there's some teamwork involved, and County Commissioner Ron Kirby says this weekend's fire showed taxpayers where some of their money is going.  No single homeowner who could have lost their home can seem to thank the firefighters enough.

"All of this is a result of a 1/8th of a cent sales tax that was passed primarily for the county and for the rural fire departments," says County Commissioner Ron Kirby.  "But, I want to stress that each of them now have $4400 each to use how they feel is necessary."

Cox's Store Fire Chief Al Dreves says his department has only one fundraiser per year.  He says if they don't raise all the money they need, they pay for repairs out of their own pockets.  He says they're grateful for the sales tax boost from the county.  "Our mutual aid among all the fire departments is fantastic.  We're all in a brotherhood.  So when I'm in trouble, I can call somebody else and I don't have to worry about that at all," says Dreves.

With the invaluable teamwork of all the fire departments, along with emergency management, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross - this was an emergency that was well managed and taken care of quickly.  And, with the sales tax boost, equipment maintenance and gas are two less things the volunteer firefighters will have to worry about should another grass fire spark.

Burn bans are issued by Governor Brad Henry's office and you can count on 7News to let you know if he issues one for our area.  That word has not come yet, but the State Forestry Division says they are monitoring conditions and a ban could come in the future.