Comanche County_Corum, Empire and Cove are all homes of volunteer fire departments, and over the past month, they've been busier than usual. In January alone, they've fought over 35 fires. It's taken a lot of a equipment and a lot of manpower - and the brave firefighters are volunteering their time to risk their lives for their hometowns.
But, numbers are down. Fire Chiefs from all over say it's because people don't want to volunteer anymore. Most stations say potential volunteers simply don't have time with full time jobs, families, and being on call to fight fires.
Since January southwest Oklahoma has seen over 15,000 acres of land burn. But, thanks to firefighters, some of them volunteers, no lives have been lost.
Cove Acres Fire Chief Matthews Eccles says being a volunteer firefighter isn't a glamorous job. "It's not for the glory, that's for sure," he laughs. "We don't get paid whatsoever. Some Fire Departments get paid a dollar or $10 per call, but our department specifically we don't get paid."
The number of volunteers is down from previous years in some stations. "We just don't get the people who want to volunteer to spend a few hours, usually a few hours a month, to show up for a meeting and to help respond on a call or two usually a month," says Eccles. He says usually the amount of calls at Cove Acres is four to five per month. "Here recently, we've had - I believe - 17 or 18 in the month of January."
Eccles says there just aren't enough hours in the day. "Some people work an 8 to 10 hour job and they don't want to do anything extraordinary out of work beside spend time with their family, which I can completely understand." But, at a rural fire station, you may not always get a day off. "On a volunteer Fire Department, when you're off from work, that doesn't necessarily mean your off from the Fire Department," he says. "You may get called out at 2 o'clock in the morning to go put out a fire or go respond to a medical call."
But, Eccles says he's not worried about volunteers in his station. "Oh, without a doubt, rural firefighters are here to stay - without question."