Bulletin Staff Report

A state grant for just over $7,000 was “a nice surprise” for the Blanket Volunteer Fire Department, Fire Chief Chris Furry said.

The Blanket department was among more than 900 Texas fire departments - including several in Brown County - to receive reimbursement from the Texas Forest Service for helping fight wildfires during the 2005-’06 wildfire season.

Through a legislative grant, TFS is distributing $5.7 million to departments throughout the state.

Other area fire departments that received funds were Bangs, Brownwood, Early, Lake Brownwood and Zephyr.

“Seven thousand dollars for Blanket is a ton of money,” Furry said. “It’s a lot of money for us.”

Furry said the department will use about $4,500 from the grant to buy bunker gear for three new firefighters, and will use the rest for operating funds. He said the department’s annual budgets are typically $15,000 to $20,000.

House Bill 15 of the 80th Texas Legislature provided funds to help pay for the cost of fighting wildfires statewide between Dec. 1, 2005, and Sept. 18, 2006. A portion of these funds were designated to help local fire departments recover some of the expenses incurred during that time period.

Texas Forest Service’s role in this reimbursement process is to verify fire reports and to distribute the payments to the fire departments. Expenses eligible for reimbursement were reported and determined through the Texas Forest Service Fire Reporting System.

House Bill 15 provided for the recovery of fire department expenses that were not already covered by FEMA or TFS emergency grants. Some local fire departments received reimbursements from FEMA for the period of time that Texas was under a Presidential Emergency Declaration. In addition, fire departments that submitted eligible requests for grants during the fire season received TFS Rural VFD Assistance Program emergency grants.