Local VFDs take stock, prepare for continuing fire danger

Local VFDs take stock, prepare for continuing fire danger

By Lauren Callahan

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Many local fire departments had a break from non-stop firefighting Monday, thanks to the large storms that came through East Texas Sunday night.

The Winona Fire Department crew checked equipment and gear to make sure it was up to date after a long summer of firefighting. Firefighters went through a checklist of helmets, coats, boots, and hoses, and washed and maintained their trucks.

"It's just a lot more wear and tear than you would normally have during a I guess you could say a regular fire season," said Assistant Fire Chief Tommy Brock.

Dixie Fire Chief Terry Rozell said the sheer number of calls his crew has run has made over the summer has stretched his equipment to capacity.

"We've been running probably 50% more calls than we normally do. We've actually had truck break downs that we don't normally have. We try to keep our equipment in top shape, but they're on the road in some cases 24/7."

Rozell has paid twice as much this summer for fuel and repairs as he normally would. He says while the money is there, he is over-budget in certain areas and keeps shifting money around to make ends meet – meaning regular maintenance and other normal occurrences aren't happening on schedule.

But he says the one thing he doesn't mind spending more money on is his crew. In his budget, Rozell can keep a crew of three at the station every day from 7 am until 5 pm.

"I know we've lost houses and we've lost a lot of equipment, but it's not near as bad as it would have been if I didn't have people on duty during the day," Rozell said.

And the danger is far from over. In fact, according to Brock, it may only be beginning.

"We're going into probably a 12-month drought, we're three or four months into it, so we have eight to nine more months of this," Brock said. "We're about two times drier now than we were when it started. We're not even at our peak. So I can see that we're going to be a whole lot busier the rest of the fall and probably well into next summer."

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