RISING STAR, Texas (KTAB) – While it may have been wet and rainy over the past few weeks, that wasn’t the case several months ago, where drought conditions plagued the Rising Star Volunteer Fire Department.
Wildfire season earlier this year kept firefighters busy in Eastland County. In March, the department says it received its highest call volume since 2015, with more than 40 emergency calls. The department also set a record on the number of hours volunteered in one call totaling up to more than 200 hours of work.
Not only did these heroes have an impact locally, but they dedicated more hours in terms of mutual aid. “Our calls from mutual aid given, which is where we respond another agency or another jurisdiction, is up by 75% this year,” says Josh Constancio, the Fire Chief of the Rising Star Volunteer Fire Department.
“We saw a decline in cattle in our area , so most of our property has gone to recreational use. You get more people in the field hunting and fishing that are not from here and may not be as wildfire aware as the folks who live here on a daily basis, so the fuel load is very heavy this year for our fire department,” explains Constancio.
The first hard freeze of the season is right around the corner. It is a period of at least four consecutive hours where air temperatures are below 25 degrees. Many plants can’t survive a hard freeze and will become dormant. This provides fuel for fires that are created and allows them to spread rapidly, making it difficult to control or put out. Constancio says that although the rain may have been good as of lately it could also be a problem during the winter months.
“It could be catastrophic, there’s a lot of fuel on the ground, places that we had fire that burned plum to bare soil, are now back with three or four foot tall grass.”
The increase in the number of volunteer hours in 2018 has also correlated to costs and expenses going up by nearly 10% from last year. The firefighters I spoke with today says its the support that keeps them driven, even when times get tough. “We need your support, whether it’s man power or monetary donations,” says Constancio.