When I moved to Oklahoma, my biggest fear in respect of potentially losing our home, was from a tornado. But I have now realised a much larger threat to our home is presented by wildfires!
I wouldn't care to try and count how many wildfires Oklahoma has had in total since I arrived in October 2005, but just since yesterday there have been 7 reported across the State. It's just been so dry here for so long, you get the heat and the strong winds and maybe a careless action, then before you know it there's a wildfire raging.
On my way home from the next town where I have been subbing today, I could see the tell tale trail of smoke from a fire south east of my town out in the country. You learn quickly around here that if in doubt, call in and report it to the authorities just in case! This time it was a controlled burn, but our Deputy Fire Chief whom I called, had just sent 2 firemen out to check on it, as it's pretty windy here today.
This leads me onto the subject of our smalltown Volunteer Fire Department. These guys are true heroes and get nothing but thanks for their efforts. We have 12 firefighters for our town of 400 residents and none of them are paid for their work. Having said that when you live in a rural area, most of the population see them as local heroes and support them at every opportunity. Last year I held a Body Shop party at my home and gave a percentage of my profits to our Fire Department. Many others do similar things, or attend their benefits and help out in anyway they can to support them.
They are a central part of our small community, not only do they attend fires in our County and assist in the neighbouring ones regularly, but last year they also had some major flooding to help clean up that even the TV stations covered. They attend car wrecks and often find themselves dealing with an injured friend or family member, as this is the sort of community where we all know each other, or at the very least a relative. Some of the firefighters are also our First Responders in a medical emergency and will attend to seriously ill residents until the Paramedics arrive.
If we were to sustain tornado damage they'd be the first ones out there clearing the wreckage and saving lives. Some of them also act as our local storm spotters and National Weather Service coordinators, even taking training courses on the weather. They also go into the local schools and train the children in emergency situations in the home and how to deal with them correctly.
In an impending emergency situation, whether it be fire, flood or weather related, the busiest spot in town will be our Main St Fire Station as residents go in for updates and news.
They raise money for, organise and put on a spectacular firework display at our Artesian lake every July 4th. All in all they are just an integral part of the town and we rely on them for so many services.
We are particularly lucky here, as not only do we have plenty of volunteers, but they are keen to be the best they can be, for the town. This has mean't many of them completing training courses that better them as a whole department. As a direct result last year all residents received discounts on their home insurance policies thanks to our firefighters!
I never cease to be amazed by the level of commitment, care and pride they put into this voluntary role for the community. They are truly the guardian angels of our little town.
So yes although I am more worried about a wildfire getting us than a tornado, I also sleep easy at night knowing the local firefighters, most of whom I know personally, will always do everything within their power to protect or help us all.
So if you have a Volunteer Fire Department in your community, the next time you have a few spare dollars, maybe consider donating them to this worthy cause.