The Walker County Farmers Federation (WCFF) recently helped extinguish a fire of sorts when it donated $500 to each of the county’s 26 volunteer fire departments (VFDs) — $13,000 in all.
“A gift like this is critical to volunteer fire departments because we are always in need of funding,” said Greg Chamness, Boldo VFD fire chief. “We have no permanent source of funding.”
Drought and continued low humidity sparked wildfires statewide last fall, straining VFD budgets with increased fuel costs and equipment repairs.
October and November recorded 573 wildfires scorching 3,288 acres in Walker County. For that same period in 2015, 124 wildfires singed 143 acres.
WCFF President Dorman Grace said supporting the VFDs was an easy decision.
“Where there was a fire, there was a structure,” Grace said. “These fire departments helped our members preserve their homes and property, a good return-on-investment for their annual membership fee.”
While most of the fires engulfed pasture and timberland, buildings were endangered, too. Damaged structures were mainly outbuildings, and thanks to hard-working volunteer firefighters, only one Walker County home burned.
Chamness said fuel cost increases varied by department, but estimated VFDs spent an extra $500 for fuel because of drought-triggered wildfires.
Grace said the WCFF was thankful for the VFDs’ dedication and plans to contribute more in the future.
“Our board has always been cognizant of our community and its needs,” he said. “We try to invest our funds back into the community. We just wish we could have given more.”