Wisconsin fire departments, many of them rural, volunteer groups, were awarded $575,000 in grants for helping the state knock down wildfires. But the slices of that pie are getting smaller.
The money is used to reimburse fire departments for equipment and training. DNR Fire Protection Grant Manager Eileen Trainor says 220 fire departments signed on to help the state if a forest or wildfire breaks out in their area, “I just constantly am amazed at the power that’s out there, the volunteer nature of Wisconsin firefighters--just an incredible group of people to work with.”
The grants range from $750 to $10,000 and have to be matched by the fire departments. Trainor wishes there was more to go around, “There’s been years of it going down, which is always a concern because there’s a lot of need out there that isn’t met.”
The Spooner Fire Department got $1500 for 50 gallons of class A foam, backpack sprayers and fire hose. Fire Chief Darren Vick says he’s worried that the state will depend more on local firefighters and cut back on state firefighters, “There’s a good working relationship between the two but it’s important that we don’t forget that we need both groups to make things work in our state.”
Being near last year’s three county area where a quarter of a million trees were blown down, Vick says the state has to hold up its end of things, “I guess I want to say this the right way but we are a big asset to the state of Wisconsin to have these firefighters who are all willing to respond and fight these fires when it’s actually their responsibility.”
Vick’s 34 member volunteer fire department not only has to cover Spooner, but another 11 townships in Washburn and Burnett Counties.