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Tribal Firefighters Say They’ve Been Burned by Federal Budget Cuts

Filed by KOSU News in State Impact.
September 15, 2012

The number of wildfires on the Cherokee Nation has remained steady in recent years, but tribal fire crews are battling tribal blazes with fewer men, no headquarters and no money for equipment maintenance.

Unlike municipal and volunteer firefighting teams in other Oklahoma communities and counties, the Cherokee Nation Fire Rangers are federally funded, reports the Cherokee Phoenix. The fire crew’s budget, which comes from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, has been cut 66 percent, Kevin Scrapper reports:

“Our equipment sits out in the heat and freezing cold all year long,” crew chief David Comingdeer tells the Phoenix. Yet during fire season there is a big demand for us to perform at a federal level, with substandard funding.”

The Cherokee firefighters used to get about $172,000 per-year, but the funding has been reduced to about $56,000. Three years ago, Comingdeer would have 10–12 firefighters on call — now he’s down to four, the Phoenix reports.

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