They often work on a shoestring budget but Monday evening, several Green Country volunteer fire departments received extra cash to help make ends meet.
The Cherokee Nation gave more than $450,000 at its Volunteer Firefighter Awards Ceremony. The money will be divvied up between 129 fire departments.
Many of the small town fire departments have to spend the money on things like keeping the lights on or fuel for the fire trucks, but the Verdigris fire chief said his department is a little more fortunate, because he's able to use the money to buy equipment to keep his firefighters safe in the field.
Verdigris Fire Chief Mike Shaffer said every one of his firefighters carries a handheld radio wherever they go. He said they are programmed with the firefighter's information and linked to the Rogers County 911 Center.
If something happens and a firefighter can't call for help, he or she would hit the mayday button, and an alert would automatically go out to all other firefighters and the 911 center.
“A mayday can happen anywhere, it just simply means they cannot assist themselves, they need help immediately,” Shaffer said.
At close to $400 apiece, Shaffer said buying 30 radios wasn't in the department's budget, but each year the Cherokee Nation donates about $3,500 to rural fire departments in northeastern Oklahoma.
“Fortunately, out of their abundance of their success, their generosity shows and it's just a tremendous blessing,” said Shaffer.
Verdigris used the donation to buy several radios two years ago and last year the money went toward building a gym at the station and starting a health and wellness program.
Two Verdigris firefighters just got their training certificate and plan to hold a couple classes a day.
“We're putting our money into maintaining our firefighters,” Shaffer said.
He said giving firefighters the tools they need to stay in shape, without a costly gym membership, helps keep injuries down which, in turn, he said, helps keep the community safer.
“Firefighters have the mind that says go to the next level, push a little bit harder,” he said. “It's no different then training their minds to do the job, they're training their bodies to do the job.”
The Verdigris Fire Department plans to use this year's money to help make improvements to the gym.