Volunteer Firefighters Suffer Physical, Emotional Strain After Difficult Wildfires

Monday, August 6th 2012, 11:52 pm
By: News On 6

It won't be long before fire crews will be getting the backup they desperately need, as FEMA has now approved financial aid to help fire departments across the state.

Fighting on the front lines is taking not only a physical, but an emotional toll on firefighters, many of whom are doing the job for free.

Ask any of the firefighters who are helping in Creek County and they will tell you this fire is like nothing they've ever had to deal with.

"It's catastrophic. It's nothing I've ever seen. We're trying to save lives, for the main part. Structures can be rebuilt," said Silver City firefighter Jason Bradley.

Bradley has been fighting fires for seven years. He said the quick, whipping wind is the main factor that made last weekend's fire difficult.

8/6/2012 Related Story: State Forestry Officials: Roughly 70 Structures Destroyed In Creek County

"I was up on Speck Wright when it first blew through, and it was just—it was throwing around on us, to where I couldn't, we couldn't see. All I could feel was a guy grab me and say, ‘Come on!'" Bradley said.

Just like many others, Bradley has been fighting these fires for days, and it has taken a toll on his body. In fact, he spent Monday night with an IV in his arm, trying to re-hydrate. And within hours, he was back on the field.

"You can drink as much as you want here, and it's just going right through you," Bradley said.

The community has donated cases of water and Gatorade, and since this difficult job doesn't pay, Bradley said the support makes up for the difference.

"They hand you a sandwich or they hand you a candy bar or something, to keep you going, and they give you a hug. And there's a lot of them will cry and give you a big hug and say, ‘Hey, I know you're doing what you can do, but we really appreciate you guys being out here.' And it just actually encourages your heart, to where you want to go out and do more," Bradley said.

Bradley and others at the Silver City Fire Department are thankful that all of their crew has, so far, been safe.

And the Silver City Fire Department said they do appreciate all the food and drinks that they have been getting, but since their equipment has taken such a beating over the last few days, they are now in need of monetary donations.

See full coverage of Oklahoma Wildfires