Local firefighters stepped up last week to help fight the Rhea fire in northwestern Oklahoma.
Volunteers from Lake Murray Village, Criner Hills and Jimtown Fire Departments drove up to work in the area, assisting the Oklahoma Forestry Service. Eight people formed a crew, none of whom had done anything like this before.
“It was a first for all of us,” said Chad McMillan, the task force leader and fireman with Lake Murray Village. “We worked the night shift, 12 hours straight.”
Seeing the havoc of the fires at Rhea and 34 Complex has triggered a desire to form their own strike team—a volunteer team that would work with Love County Emergency Management for any local or regional emergencies or disasters.
“We would send the crew for fires, floods, hurricanes, like down in Texas, search and rescue, things like that.” McMillan said, adding that they had the approval of the Love County Board of Commissioners and the group is now discussing training with the local fire chiefs.
“We would have to do training in those areas,” said McMillan. “We would also have to train together so we can work better as a team.”
Funding for the fire departments and special efforts like assembling a strike team comes from fundraising and donations, McMillan said.
“That’s what makes it possible for us to do this work,” he said.
Criner Hills Volunteer Fire Department, one of the departments that participated in the crew that fought the Rhea fire, will hold its annual hamburger cookout fundraiser and auction starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the station on Countyline Road in Overbrook.
“None of this is a one-man thing,” McMillan said. “It’s a team effort.”
Lake Murray Village Fire Department will have their own fish fry fundraiser on May 19.
A wet Wednesday has granted some reprieve to northwestern Oklahoma counties ravaged by fires over the past two weeks, despite rainfall amounts lower than forecasted.
Rainfall has prompted some improvement and the initial attack on new fires is expected to be successful though the remainder of the week. As of Wednesday no new activity was reported in the east central, southeast, or the Forestry Service’s prescribed fire areas. Three new fires burned 15.5 acres in the northeast area, all of which were caused by escaped prescribed and debris burns. The burn ban remains in effect for much of the western half of the state.