While volunteer fire departments in
The closures will put more strain on the dwindling number of volunteers from the surrounding departments, more wear and tear on vehicles and, most importantly, slower response times because of increased coverage areas.
A couple of years ago,
"It's tough," he said. "You've just have to make it work."
The department chiefs say the rising costs of turnout gear (the jacket, pants, boots, gloves, helmets and air packs firemen wear at a scene), fuel, tires and repairs for trucks and emergency medical training exhaust department budgets, leaving little or no money for other expenses.
That's especially true in
"When we have a
Clark said the Caddo-Midway
"With our budget like it is, we are having to raise money just to keep the doors open," he said. Caddo-Midway is paying
Add to that annual expenses for insurance (
He said the HVAC unit went out at Station No. 1 and a
"If it wasn't for grants, we would really be hurting in
He said the financial constraints mean his department has to purchase the basic 50-foot section of a fire hose for
He said fundraisers that once brought in about
"We have fundraisers but we're competing against other organizations also needing money," he said. "The dollar can only be stretched so far."
Local volunteer departments hold fish fries, chicken stew sales, tractor shows and family portrait sales to help offset the stations' costs.
Fee hasn't increased
Some officials say
Clark said it is frustrating to pay more for 911 fees than for fire protection.
In the nearby community of Chalybeate, Capt.
"Financing the department has been a struggle," Hobbs said. "You have truck payments, equipment upkeep, training costs. We have to prioritize our budget. Some things we need but the funding is not there. Yes, we struggle to get by."
State Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-
"I encourage fire departments that have a need for under
He said counties fund their volunteer fire departments differently and it is probably best handled at the county and local levels.
"Homeowners and residents should understand the importance of a strong volunteer fire department," Robertson said. "The services they offer affect homeowners insurance -- better the rank, the lower the insurance price."
"Most of our volunteer fire departments are woefully underfunded," he added. "The most dedicated first responders are volunteer firefighters. They're the true heroes. They're risking their lives for free."
Jolly said the county and Legislature could help solve the dilemma but because it involves asking for money, they shy away.
"Everyone wants to help, but when you bring up the word 'money,' it's like they saw a ghost. They all of sudden shut down," Jolly said.
He lauded recent action by the
"They are addressing the mobile home fees now," he said. "It's not a new tax or anything. It is a service fee that has been on the book for decades and hasn't been collected for whatever reason. It's tens of thousands of uncollected tax money."
Alabama State Fire Marshal
"A strong fire service, whether it be a volunteer, career or combination department, has a positive effect on the community it serves," he said. "Each county funds their departments. There are 67 county fire associations in the state. Some volunteer departments are very limited in funding and some are very well funded. In the long run, a strong department saves communities money."
Stinson said the 3 mill fire fee and a small percentage of sales tax in
He said the tax revenue has grown with the county over time. In 1990, each department received
He said the
The top expenses, he said, are
"We have to be very smart and thrifty with our money," he said. "The volunteers take money out of their own pockets driving to a fire, taking training classes."
"I applaud the people of
The expected influx of new
"There's going to be more houses and more load on volunteer fire departments," Hobbs said. "Increased traffic will mean more calls for first responders."
-- [email protected] or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.
(c)2020 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)
Visit The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) at www.decaturdaily.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.