FOYIL, Okla. - A hot, dry summer full of wildfires left many rural fire departments across Oklahoma strapped for cash.
Tuesday night, the Cherokee Nation gave more than 100 volunteer fire departments thousands of dollars. Firefighters say that money will go a long way.
In the small town of Foyil, just north of Claremore, fires weren't as bad as they could have been.
"It's been dry, but it hasn't been that bad as far as fire calls or anything," said fire chief Randy Atchley.
Despite that, rural fire departments like Foyil's rely heavily on grants and donations to get by. The Cherokee Nation handed 127 fire departments, including Foyil, a check for $3,582.67 each.
"It's just been a tough year on all departments in the state, and it's just the equipment, some of it's old and worn out, and they're going to use that money to use it to buy things they really need," Atchley said.
Atchley already knows what they'll use the money for. He plans to buy his firefighters wildfire gear. The gear they have right now is designed to fight structure fires, and he says it's too heavy and bulky for fighting wildfires.
This is the eighth year the Cherokee Nation donated money to volunteer fire departments within its tribal jurisdiction.
"They've gotta be ready 24/7, 365 days a year. And when the call comes, they have no earthly idea what it is. It could be a fire, it could be a tornado, it could be a car wreck, it could be anything," said
Principal Chief Bill John Baker.
Baker says this year, Cherokee Nation donated nearly half a million dollars overall to fire departments to say thanks.
"Thank you for your service, and what you do, and we want to be a partner and help those guys and gals that put their lives on the line for our gals and citizens every day," Baker said.
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