Georgia city sells wildfire T-shirts to raise money for firetruck

Sunday, June 17, 2007

FARGO, Ga. -- Firefighters from across the nation have helped battle massive wildfires in the Okefenokee Swamp this spring. Now they've got a souvenir.

To raise money for new fire trucks, the tiny city of Fargo has been selling hundreds of T-shirts geared toward those fighting the swamp blaze, which has been dubbed the "Bugaboo."

The shirt shows a fire plow and helicopter among flames and swamp critters. It says: "The Big Sweaty Bugaboo -- Teamwork Is Not An Option, It's A Lifestyle."

Mayor Robbie Lee said the city saw a fund-raising opportunity when hundreds of firefighters began arriving in southern Georgia two months ago to help fight wildfires that started near Waycross.

Lisa Johnson, Fargo's city clerk, said Friday that she has been amazed at the response. Since the $20 shirts went on sale May 25, the city has raised more than $17,000.

A third-grade teacher and a visiting forest ranger from Virginia designed the shirt. For the past three weeks, they have been sold at city hall, a local restaurant and a gas station. Johnson said she has also gotten calls and e-mail from firefighters in Iowa, Texas and other states wanting to order them.

Lee said he does not believe T-shirt sales alone will raise $70,000 for a new wildland firetruck or $150,000 for a 3,000-gallon fire tanker. He said the city will do the best it can with whatever money it can raise.

Fargo, population 380, relies on a volunteer fire department with just two trucks that are more than 25 years old and prone to breakdowns, Lee said.

Wildfires have burned 578,000 acres of forest and swampland in southern Georgia and northern Florida since April 16. Last month, the flames crept within three miles of Fargo, but never reached the city.

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