Cool Temperatures Welcome Break For Oklahoma Firefighters


Sunday, September 4th 2011, 11:47 pm
By: News 9


Jamie Oberg, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY – Non-stop wildfires in parts of Oklahoma have kept crews fighting the flames in 24-hour shifts. Crews and equipment have been stretched thin after a busy summer and volunteer firefighters especially don't get a lot of time to recuperate.

"It's dirty, grungy, dangerous—just depends on where you're at at any given moment," said Chris Burke, Oak Cliff Fire Department.

At any given moment, it's volunteer firefighters like Chris Burke who answer the call for help.

"Each time you go out, not all fires are going to be the same," said Carol Dire, captain, Oak Cliff Fire Department.

Hundreds of fire crews battled flames and heat to try and save homes in Northeast Oklahoma for three days straight. It's been non-stop work for Oklahoma firefighters all summer long.

"In the Edmond fire, I was in it, I had an engine crew.  We had the fire come over and I've never seen the flames as high as they were this time," Dire said.  "I've been doing it so long, you just get used to it and do what you gotta do."

The 17-year veteran volunteer firefighter also has a "day job" working security for the Department of Human Services.

They all have families to feed and finances are just one of the challenges facing volunteer fire departments across the state which are already stretched thin.

"So we're low on manpower during the day, but we try to send as many people as we can, but also protect our district too," she said.

In the stifling summer heat, the biggest challenge is often Mother Nature.

"We've gotten a break today. We're all resting up because this is probably not going to last long. It's probably going to dry up again and do the same thing," she said.

But, ask any firefighter, they don't do it for the money. And Oak Cliff firefighters aren't complaining.

"This is what we do. We enjoy it from our everyday lives," Dire said.

State leaders have filed for federal assistance in hopes of getting more money for financially strapped fire departments across the state.