Volunteer fire departments struggling with rising fuel costs

Lawton_As gas prices continue to climb, rural fire departments suffer.  Unlike city fire departments which get tax assistance to pay for gas, volunteer fire departments do not - they depend on donations, county assistance, and yearly fundraisers.  Unfortunately, even if the costs for operation increase, their budget doesn't.  This year they'll have to increase donations and hold more fundraisers - all just to pay for fuel.  "With $4 a gallon, and some of our trucks take diesel, it's $4.60 a gallon, it makes it even harder to maintain our budget," says Cove Acres Fire Chief Matt Eccles.

Fuel costs aren't the only expenses fire departments have to factor in to their budgets.  Although they're small, volunteer fire departments still need basic equipment such as gear, trucks, maintenance, and hoses - all of which have hefty price tags.  "My pumper truck had to be repaired - that was $1550 dollars," says Cox's Store Fire Chief Al Dreves.

In the last two years, the Cove Acres Fire Department has spent $100,000 updating equipment alone, and their new fire department building cost them $120,000.  So, your local volunteer fire department will definitely be asking for more donations.  "I feel real bad about asking for more money because it's not only us, it's everybody that's hurting just because of gas prices," says Dreves.

Until fuel costs begin to decrease, fire departments say they'll keep hoping for a slow and wet season, and if it isn't - they'll still be out fighting fires.  "If they call me to go help I won't cut back I promise. I'll still go help them do whatever we gotta do to fight the fire, that's not a big deal," he says.

Most trucks that volunteer fire departments use are borrowed from the state, so if they are wrecked, they do not get replaced - yet another reason to donate to your volunteer fire department.