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Meteorologists say high fire alert is here to stay; Volunteer fire departments need help

NORMAN, Okla. – Meteorologists with the National Weather Service are warning Oklahomans to get used to constant high fire alerts.

It seems like once one fire is under control, another one starts up.

Meteorologist Scott Curl says it could be months before they feel like they can stop issuing high alerts and red flag warnings.

So when will it all be over?

“Not until we get a green up in the spring,” says Curl. “Things start to warm up, vegetation turns green. That’s when we’ll alleviate some of these issues.”

That would mean March or April.

And for smaller communities like Cashion, the stress is building.

Cashion firefighter Ross Nealis says, “If we have back to back fires we are really worn out. It gets to the point where it’s not as safe because of your thought process. You’re tired, you’re not thinking things through.”

Assistant Fire Chief Trent Gibson says, “The fire doesn’t care whether you’re volunteer or paid. The training has to be the same. The expectations have to be the same.”

Around 20 men get a page that lets them know where they are needed and whoever is available responds.

It took them six minutes to respond to a house not even a mile away from the fire station and Assistant Chief Trent Gibson says for them, that’s a good response time.

Gibson says Cashion is lucky to have the resources they do and firefighters willing to do an exhausting job without pay.

But seeing major fires makes their friends and family wonder why they would sign up for something like this.

“Initially it’s the thought of the glory and the lights and the sirens,” says Gibson. “That’s what you think, but the reality of it is, it’s the brothers around you.”

Small communities across the state are always looking for volunteers to add to their department but have a hard time during red flag warnings and high fire danger.

Click here for more information on volunteer firefighting in Cashion.