Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma
Christie Smith, a full-time nurse and volunteer firefighter with the Cedar Country Fire Department, and David Thompson, safety officer with the Slaughterville Fire Department, cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla.
Oklahoma has more than 4,000 paid, professional firefighters at departments throughout the state, data from the state Firefighters Pension and Retirement System show.
But its unpaid firefighting force is more than three times that size.
“Volunteering right now is a full-time job,” says Maj. David Thompson, safety officer for the Slaughterville Fire Department. “And it’s wearing us down.”
Joe Wertz / NPR StateImpact
Jessie Bean, a wind technology student, peers out of the top of a 13-story training tower in El Reno.
The amount of wind energy has increased dramatically over the last decade, along with the number of wind farms around the country and in Oklahoma.
The industry is building more turbines than it can maintain, officials say, and Oklahoma is working fast to fill the job gap.
AUDIO BY LOGAN LAYDEN