Tara Vreeland, News On 6
PAWNEE COUNTY -- Fire chiefs from Pawnee County met for the first time since last week's devastating wildfire.
The fire killed two people, destroyed an area three miles long and four miles wide and virtually drained nearly every resource the tiny fire departments have.
Fire chiefs from 13 counties, along with emergency management, and the Department of Agriculture say after a fire of that magnitude, there is room for improvement because a fire like this could happen again, especially since they believe an arsonist might be behind the blaze.
Terlton Fire Chief Charles Badgwell says they've had reports of someone setting fires in the area. Although small, they can quickly explode into something nearly unstoppable.
The local departments, made up mostly of volunteer firefighters, admit they could not handle the monstrous fire alone. Manpower, resources, and equipment were spread thin.
The Department of Agriculture says there were at least eight other fires in the state.
"We realize for the most part there were a lot of other fires in the state than just ours so we had to share resources," Ryan Spyres, North 48 Fire Chief, said.
The National Guard helped from the air and fire departments came from all directions. But even with all the outside help, the fire chiefs agree it caused one problem they hope to remedy should this happen again.
"Biggest thing is communications," Spyres said. "We have our own system here when we're on small incidences but the vast majority of departments with mutual aid came in that we've never worked with before. Zero compatibility on radio frequencies."
Chief Badgwell says he doesn't think anyone who was out on the fire claimed they did everything right, but they can only learn from here and hope those responsible will stop.
"We're hoping that just being in the right place at the right time, somebody is going to see this person. When they do, they can get them out of here. Before they kill somebody else," he said.
Chief Ryan Spyres said Monday that Indian Electric told him they alone have $275,000 in damage. The county is still tallying the total cost of the fire.