by Victor Lopez
WEST ODESSA - If it's not one thing, it's another for the volunteer firefighters in West Odessa.
The number of calls they answer has gone up, their gas bill's gone up, and the days of increased fire danger stick around.
But their determination to keep these fires from spreading and causing any major damage is still strong.
That's why they need your help to make sure they can keep up the pace.
"We've had some really large fires that are taxing us and every other volunteer agency in the area, because they are coming to help us," West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis, said.
What little rain we saw last week wasn't nearly enough to keep the Permian Basin out of fire danger which was obvious last Thursday.
Ellis says, "We're still not out of the woods yet. We're still very dry. We've had some huge fires in the last two weeks."
A rising number in calls is taking its toll on the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department budget.
"I get about $3,200 a month. Of that, $1,800 to $2,000 of it is fuel. And that's on slow months," Ellis said.
But it's not just West Odessa that's having a rough time, it's all over.
"We're just to a point where everybody is taxed; everybody is running out of money with fuel costs getting so high. It's going to come back and bite everybody," Ellis said.
Ector County Commissioners helped out on Monday with $3000 dollars that is supposed to go to fuel, but that's not the only expense mounting for Ellis' crew.
"The other night, when we had that large fire, I had to call out the tire company, and have them repair two tires for Monahans. I'm sure that bill is going to be pretty high, because it was like 1 o'clock in the morning when I had to call them out," Ellis said.
When asked what his ideal set up at the Department would be Ellis responded, "What would be ideal for me? Four brand new fire trucks."
But at $180,000 thousand a pop, that's not likely to happen any time soon. So instead, he plans to ask Commisisoners for something else.
"What I'm trying to get is two military surplus trucks. The trucks are all wheel drive military trucks. And for the fires we've had in the western part of our County, it's what we have to have to get off the road," he said.
But even then, that takes money, something that's in short supply.
Even though they have already recieved some five thousand in donations, they still have a long way to go.
"Something is going to have to give somewhere, because we're doing our job but we're running our people ragged, our trucks ragged. This has been one of the busiest fire seasons I can remember in a long time, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down," Ellis said.
If you would like to help out the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department, you can send your donations to: PO Box 70107, Odessa, TX, 79766, or you can call the fire station, at 432-381-3033, or you can call Chief Ellis directly at 432-664-7805.