Oklahoma has been under smoke for a few months now, with no relief to the widespread wildfires in sight. State Senator Jeff Rabon (D-Hugo) was part of an initiative to release $1.5 million to rural fire departments to help aid in fighting the wildfires that are plaguing Oklahoma.
“Less than one fifth of the $1.5 million of funds have been claimed by rural fire departments. I know that each rural fire department is struggling to fight these blazing wildfires – people are even giving money out of their own pockets so that fire trucks have enough gasoline to go to the next fire,” said Rabon. “This program is vital to the rural fire departments’ success in fighting and overcoming these wildfires. Parts of eastern and southeastern Oklahoma are the driest in the nation. At this point I’m not suggesting we panic, but the additional funds would most definitely provide relief for our rural fire departments.”
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is administering the Extraordinary Fire Cost Recovery Program and applications were mailed out to each rural fire department when the program was administered. Senator Rabon would urge every rural fire department to complete their application and postmark it by tomorrow, December 31st.
“I know that in the midst of fighting these fires most men and women at the rural fire departments have not had the opportunity to check their mail, but I urge you to fill out the application today and list all of the expenses that your department has incurred while fighting the wildfires,” Rabon stated. “You can list everything from gasoline to fill up your trucks, to food, bottled water, equipment and everything else needed to fight the blazing grass fires that are plaguing our state.”
Rabon concluded that he has urged the Department of Agriculture to extend funding for those rural fire departments that have missed the deadline. “These men and women have been working around the clock on a volunteer basis to save the homes of their neighbors and I’m sure that many of them have not had the opportunity to stop and fill out the necessary application. I would urge Secretary Peach to open another round of funding if all $1.5 million is not claimed.”
Senator Rabon also wanted to note that during the last legislative session a bill was passed by both houses and signed into law by Governor Henry that enables state and county employees who also are volunteer fire fighters in rural areas not to be charged with leave time or lose any pay if they are called to fight fires in these rural areas. “I would also strongly encourage the private sector to allow any of their employees to take leave as well and not punish them for trying to save Oklahomans’ land and property.”
Senator Rabon continues to call on Governor Henry to expand the purpose of the current special session to include funding for all fire fighting departments as well as have any available Oklahoma National Guard units assist in these efforts to fight Oklahoma’s wildfires. In addition to this call, Senator Rabon would also urge Governor Henry to further consider Cloud Seeding – a process that was used by former Governor Frank Keating to aid in the development of rain.
To receive another application or to obtain more information, you can contact the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry at (405) 521-3864 and inform the operator that you need assistance with the Extraordinary Fire Cost Recovery Program.