July 5, 2011

Country music stars to give a voice to Texas firefighters' cause

Pat Green, Lee Ann Womack and others will headline a fundraiser concert for volunteer fire departments in Palo Pinto County that have lost equipment battling wildfires.

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Country music stars will headline a benefit concert Saturday to raise money for cash-strapped volunteer fire departments in Palo Pinto County, where a new fire has scorched more than 900 acres.

The concert, at Rocker B Ranch near Graford, will feature Pat Green, Lee Ann Womack and Stoney Larue, organizers said.

In April and May, volunteers battled large wildfires around Possum Kingdom Lake, and many departments lost equipment.

Wondering what they could do to help, four ranchers in Palo Pinto County came up with the idea for the concert and formed the nonprofit Buckets and Boots Foundation.

"We really saw the heart and spirit of this county and its people, firefighters, police officers, everyone," said Craig James, one of the ranchers and an ESPN college football analyst. "We saw what they did to protect us, and we wanted to help them in some way."

Tickets are $100, but firefighters can attend for free. Musicians are performing for free, and all of the proceeds will go to firefighters and law enforcement agencies to purchase equipment, James said.

The Possum Kingdom West department needs to replace a broken pump motor and lights on one truck, several torn suits and gloves and a missing handheld radio, Fire Chief Garth Flack said.

"We were fighting fires day and night for 27 days, and a lot of our equipment got torn up," he said, adding that the department appreciates the community's efforts.

Palo Pinto County Judge David Nicklas said the departments exhausted their fuel and truck-repair resources and will need to replenish funds to continue fighting fires, which were raging again Tuesday.

Firefighters began battling a blaze Monday on County Road 337, about five miles northwest of Mineral Wells. By Tuesday night, it had burned 932 acres, according to the Texas Forest Service, which estimated that the fire was 10 percent contained.

Residents along Devil's Hollow Road and Coronado Camp were evacuated as the blaze threatened about 30 homes, but none were lost, according to the forest service. Only one structure, thought to be a deer camp, was destroyed.

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered federal aid to help state and local recovery efforts, which will let governments in 45 counties seek federal assistance. Palo Pinto was not included.

Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056

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