The Seventh Osage Nation Congress approved two bills that will appropriate tribal funding toward fire department vehicle and equipment purchases for Hominy Ranchers and Fairfax.
On April 12, Congress passed ONCA 22-27 (sponsored by Congressman John Maker), which is “An Act to authorize and appropriate $104,793 to the Hominy Ranchers’ Rural Fire Department for the purchase of a fire truck.”
Separately, Congress also passed bill ONCA 22-48 (sponsored by Congresswoman Brandy Lemon), which is “An Act to authorize and appropriate $125,000 to the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department for the purchase of a rescue truck and new equipment.”
Maker said the Hominy Ranchers Rural Fire Department fire truck purchase is necessary to provide response coverage to landowners and noted the fire department also responds to emergency calls outside its coverage area if needed.
“They answer all calls where needed,” Maker said before the vote. “Last year they had 31 calls … Their equipment is so old, it was mostly donated to them … I would remind Congress that we have a lot of Osage landowners.”
Pete Anderson, chief for the Hominy Ranchers fire department, met with the Congressional Governmental Operations Committee before the vote. He said the department has eight fire trucks, which came from the state forestry service through the years and include models from years 1969 through the 1980s. One of the newer trucks is a 1997 model and “we’re just trying to update our equipment, our trucks are getting older so we don’t go out as far as we used to just so we can get back to our area fast,” Anderson said.
Anderson noted the volunteer-staffed fire department does not operate on taxpayer funding and receives revenue from fees, including those from landowners and from responses to restricted land calls.
Congresswoman Alice Goodfox and Congressman Scott BigHorse applauded the fire department’s coverage efforts across Osage County, including calls to assist the ON Wildland Fire Management Office.
Anderson said the funding would cover purchasing a brand new one-ton brush truck with a 300-gallon tank. For 2021, he said the department responded to 31 calls and 27 of those were on trust/ restricted lands.
For ONCA 22-48, Lemon said the bill aligns with helping area volunteer fire departments like Maker’s bill.
Lemon invited Joe Buckner (Osage), chief for the Fairfax fire department, to meet with the Congressional committee to discuss the proposed equipment purchases. For example, Lemon learned several pieces of the department’s response equipment is outdated, including water hoses made in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Congresswoman Pam Shaw also met with Lemon and the Fairfax fire department and said she too was alarmed at the equipment ages and added she was concerned the department would not be able to immediately respond with adequate equipment in the area, especially with the new senior housing complex under construction.
Buckner said the prior fire chiefs set up the department to mostly respond to wildland calls, which accounts for 80% of its responses. He said the department is looking to replace an early 2000s truck geared toward wildland fire calls due to wear and tear. A few years, earlier, Buckner recalled the department approaching the Town of Fairfax to help purchase extrication equipment, which was unsuccessful, and the department got a bank loan to purchase the rescue equipment, which costs $20,000-plus.
For funding, Buckner said the town gives $14,000 per year to the department and $4,800 annually from the state forestry department. He said the department also holds fundraising events throughout the year to raise more operational funds, including equipment parts and vehicle fuel costs, but the last two years were interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
Lemon added the Fairfax truck to be replaced does not carry water and fire suppressing foam. “I really am thankful and appreciative that we as a body come to the need of our fire departments … new equipment, updated equipment so that they can be there for our landowners and our people that need help and also need to be rescued,” she said.
Both bills ONCA 22-27 and 22-48 passed unanimously on April 12, which is Day 14 of the Hun-Kah Session.
For more information regarding ON Congressional sessions, filed legislation and Congressional committee meetings, visit the Legislative Branch website at www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch