AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Texas lawmakers and AT&T teamed up on Thursday to help local volunteer fire stations get back on their feet financially following last month’s wildfires in West Texas.
“The wildfires destroyed 500,000 acres in the Panhandle area, ended up taking four lives, ended up burning three firefighters,” Chris Barron with the State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas said, “and put a lot of fire departments in a financial bind in which now they are struggling to repair much-needed equipment that they have to use on a daily basis.”
AT&T fronted the initial $20,000 outside the Texas State Capitol on Thursday. They are asking for the public to donate $10 by texting “RELIEF” to “80077.”
“We are going to ask what needs do they have,” Barron said. “Is it protective clothing? Is it new tires for their brush truck because they burned them all up?”
Barron says they’ll distribute the money to the fire stations based on the resources they currently need to operate and how many calls they receive on a daily basis.
“You know a tire could cost as much as $350 a piece,” Tim Smith, Fire Chief at West Carlisle Fire Department said. “Pumps, wildland firefighter gear, it is very expensive and much needed, and it can be the difference between life and death.”
Smith says the recent wildfires in West Texas put a lot of local volunteer fire departments in a financial bind.
“We run about 150 fire calls out of this station a year,” Smith said, “and most of them, all of them, are run by folks who are not making a dime for what they do.”
Smith says any help from the public will help tremendously and allow volunteer firefighters to continue to operate and respond to emergency calls.
There are nearly 1,600 volunteer fire departments that operate in Texas and 22,000 individual members.
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