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FEMA reimburses county VFDs for losses in 2009 wildfire

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By Matt Kelton
Pioneer Sentinel

It has taken more than two years, but volunteer fire departments in Clay County have been reimbursed for losses while fighting a fire that burned almost 27,000 acres.

In late January, three departments received a total of $22,681 from FEMA for damages in the April 9, 2009 wildfires. Damages to equipment were covered for one of the three blazes that struck Clay County that day, a 26,819-acre fire that began in Bellevue and became the Montague Complex fire.

Bellevue VFD received $16,000 in reimbursements, while FEMA paid the Henrietta VFD $1,900, and the Vashti VFD $4,781.

Mark Hanson, chief of the Bellevue VFD, said the funds would be used to make repairs to the Bellevue Fire Hall, a facility comprised of two buildings, including new overhead doors and insulation for the “old” building, and repairs to a sidewalk. The rest will be put into the department’s emergency fund.

Lance Liggett of the Vashti VFD said the funds would go toward construction expenses. VVFD began building a new fire hall in May 2010, and is now in use. Volunteers are working to finish the interior of the structure, and plan to have the building completed in April.

Monies awarded to the Henrietta VFD will go into the department’s equipment maintenance, said Chief Mike Roberts.

The Montague Complex fire started near the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad in Bellevue, and spread rapidly due to high winds. The fire burned east across the Montague county line and into Stoneburg. The south flank of the fire burned into another fire northwest of Bowie, forming a complex of fires.

Bellevue VFD was forced to back-burn along FM 1288 north and west along Studdard Road to protect the town. Portions of Bellevue were evacuated. One home was lost in Clay County. Another 68 homes were lost in Montague County.

Thirteen homes at Lake Arrowhead were lost in a separate fire. The Two Mile Hill Complex fire started in Archer County and burned 21,525 acres. High winds drove the fire east into a heavily populated area on West Arrowhead Drive before extinguishing itself in the lake.

Shortly after the Montague Complex fire sparked, another fire was reported near Petrolia. The Petrolia fire burned 582 acres.

According to FEMA notices received by County Judge Kenneth Liggett, nine departments in Clay County can expect to receive FEMA funds this week in the amount of  $22,549 for a rash of wildfires in 2011. The payments are to cover expenses incurred between April 3 and May 6 of last year.

Jolly VFD will receive $9,363.28; Charlie-Thornberry VFD, $2,520; Arrowhead Ranch Estates VFD, $2,436.45; Lake Arrowhead VFD, $2,184; Petrolia VFD, $2,050.50; Henrietta VFD, $1,949.32; Bluegrove VFD, $1,026.80; and Vashti will be reimbursed $967.12. Ringgold VFD, in Montague County, will receive $52.50 for assistance with a Clay County fire.

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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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