Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 26, 2013

Tax dollars go to help fire officials

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — A couple of Garvin County fire departments are putting taxpayer dollars to good use with a move meant to better outfit them for battling grass fires.

Given the OK is a measure calling for firefighters in both Wynnewood and Elmore City to get set up with what’s called wild land protective clothing and equipment.

Not only is the updating of fire equipment needed to meet increased safety standards it’s also the first time the Wynnewood department has spent any of its money from a county sales tax meant to help each fire department in the county.

The quarter cent tax split equally by each of the dozen departments was approved by voters last year.

“This is the first time we’ve spent any of the tax,” said Wynnewood Fire Chief Greg Dixon.

“We wouldn’t be able to get this without the tax,” he said.

County Clerk Lori Fulks said the departments which haven’t spent any of the tax money so far to upgrade its gear and equipment have accumulated a little over $30,000.

“It’s all out of their sales tax,” Fulks said about the recent measure approved by county commissioners for the two departments.

“This is their money to spend,” she said.

With the approval both area fire departments can now use part of their tax money to buy the new wild land clothing and equipment.

“It’s thinner than bunker gear but still offers protection from grass fires,” Dixon said.

The approved measure means the Wynnewood department can now acquire 20 sets of the new gear at a cost of just over $800 per set. The total cost is around $16,200.

The Elmore City department has the OK to spend $920 for each of 16 sets at a total cost of about $14,700.

According to Dixon, each set for his firefighters includes such gear as pants, coats, boots, gloves and heat shields.

Not so long ago rural firefighters like Dixon oftentimes wore jeans and T-shirts while fighting grass fires. They have always worn the traditional bunker gear for structure fires, he said.

A lot like the traditional gear worn by firefighters, Dixon said this clothing and equipment is better suited for battling grass fires, especially during the intense heat of the Oklahoma summers.

“The summers have been really hot,” Dixon said.

“If you wear bunker gear you could get heat stroke,” he said. “You run the risk of guys taking off their coat and getting burned. With them on they could get heat stroke.

“The wild land gear looks like bunker gear but it’s a lot thinner. The new gear is more practical.”