MUSKOGEE COUNTY, Okla. — Four rural volunteer fire departments in Muskogee County may close over compliance with state law regarding inventory, which would put fire safety for those rural districts in question.
That state law requires Title 19 fire departments to submit an inventory every year of their purchases.
Only four rural fire departments are under the county’s jurisdiction: Mountain View, Brushy Mountain, Keefeton and Buckhorn.
John Tyler Hammons is the attorney contracted by the county. He says none of them have been in compliance with the law and that he submitted the matter to the state auditor to investigate.
Hammons says Keefeton Fire Department did not pay for its services with the county’s 911 Center, which was the impetus for the audit of the departments.
On Monday, the Muskogee County Commissioners passed a resolution appointing the emergency management director, Jeff Smith to oversee overall purchases for the four departments until further notice.
“The departments are supposed to have boards and directors that do all this,” Hammons said, “Those various boards of directors have not supervised these departments as required by law. As a consequence of that failure, the county had to take extraordinary action and appoint Mr. Smith to be in charge, til we can get all this sorted out.”
That resolution also requires the fire departments to hand over their funds and inventory within 30 days.
Hammons says if criminal activity is found, it could mean the disbanding of one or all of the four rural fire departments, which would leave those areas without any fire service.
Clayton Webb has been the fire chief of the Buckhorn Volunteer Fire Department since 1997. He says he has filed purchase orders with the county clerk for every purchase but he doesn’t have the manpower to do the annual inventory.
“I would like to ask the county commissioners to help in this deal instead of impede it,” Webb said, “I would challenge the county commissioners to contact me and see what they can do to help because all the equipment is here. There’s nothing being [hidden] at Buckhorn. It just needs to be inventoried.”
Webb says he also opens the fire station every year to the public to see what their tax dollars purchased.
But he says now that the county controls his department’s purse strings, it hurts the department.
©2023 Cox Media Group