The past summer's drought took a bite out of the Carthage Fire Department's budget.

The past summer's drought took a bite out of the Carthage Fire Department's budget.

The city has gone through about a quarter of its fiscal year which began on July 1, 2012, but the fire department has burned through about 40 percent of its overtime budget as of Sept. 5, according to Fire Chief Chris Thompson.

“This is forcing us to take measures to try to get back on track,” Thompson said. “We've had to try to work short-handed on some shifts and chief officers are having to work some shifts to make up for some of the shortage. The drought hurt us a lot as far as wear and tear on equipment and personnel.”

Thompson said the number of calls outside the city for service has been trending up for years, but this summer that number jumped dramatically.

• In 2008, the department responded to eight calls for service outside the city between July 1 and Sept. 5. That number for the same period in 2012 jumped to 87.

• The department spent 384 man hours fighting wild-land fires from July 1-Sept. 5, 2012, more than double the 176 man-hours used for wild-land fires in 2011.

• The department spent 125 hours in overtime on wild-land fires from July 1-Sept. 5, 2012, compared to 71 overtime hours in the same period of 2011, 36 overtime hours in 2010, two hours in 2009 and 23 hours in 2008.

Thompson said a failure in the transmission computer on one of the fire engines in the first week of the new fiscal year, on July 4, also took a big chunk out of the department's maintenance budget.

That repair cost about $5,000, or 30 percent of the maintenance and repair line item.

He said having several new fire trucks will help the department spend less on maintenance, but most of the rest of the fire department's vehicles were built in the 1990s and they cost money to maintain.

Firewise community
Thompson said the department has applied for a grant to become a federal “Firewise” community.

The program is designed to educate people on the dangers of wild-land fires and ways to prevent the loss of homes and structures to those fires.

It also will help fund planning for the fire department to handle wild-land fire emergencies.

“When you think of wild-land fires most people think of the western states,” Thompson said. “To apply for this Firewise grant, we had to write a community wild fire protection plan. When we went through this drought, we almost came to the point where we had to activate our community wild-fire plan, but we avoided it.
“Hopefully in the next few months, you'll see a sign at the city limits that says we are a “Firewise Community.” Thompson said.