Complete coverage of Texas wildfires

Wildfires Stretch Fire Department Budgets

State to reimburse fire departments for expenses

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Fire crews from across the state are pitching in to battle numerous wildfires, but some departments say their budgets are stretched beyond what they can cover.

    In Denton County, fire departments have banded together to form units called strike teams.

    Fire Teams in Denton County Form "Strike Teams"

    [DFW] Fire Teams in Denton County Form "Strike Teams"
    Fire crews throughout Denton County have banned together to form units called "strike teams" to deal with wildfires across North Texas.

    "We said, 'Sure, we've got a brush truck and crew. We will be happy to send them on the strike team going west," Roanoke Fire Chief Mike Duncan said.

    However, like many fire departments, Duncan said his budget is stretched thin.

    "We always want to go help our neighbors, but as far as sending people out for a week or so, we just couldn't afford to do it," he said.

    Duncan said the hardest cost to absorb would be overtime. Each firefighter called to the front lines must be paid and replaced at the station.

    Possum Kingdom Fire from April 19, 2011

    [DFW] Possum Kingdom Fire from April 19, 2011
    Raw video of wildfires and wildfire damage at Possum Kingdom Lake shot by Chopper 5 on April 19, 2011.

    "Personnel cost is always your biggest expense," he said.

    "Overtime is time-and-a-half, so, with current economic status, it's always been one of line items they've focused on, is our overtime budget," Denton Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Hedges said.

    Hedge's firefighters are working alongside the Roanoke crew and crews from several other Denton County departments.

    The strike team is part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, which means the majority of their expenses will be reimbursed by the state.

    "We hope 100 percent," Duncan said. "If we've dotted all the I's and T's, we should see 100 percent," Duncan said.

    This emergency money is making it possible for these departments to do their part.