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Volunteers FD struggling with gas prices

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June 6, 2008

Decatur County-- When the call comes in, they head out.  "We have a certain number of people who will respond to the fire station to pick up the fire trucks, and we have others who will go directly to the scene," explains Captain Dub Cason of the Volunteer Fire Station in Recovery.

Volunteer firefighters never know when or where it will be, or even how much it will cost them.  "The county takes care of all the fuel costs as far as for the fuel for the emergency vehicles itself," says Decatur County Fire Chief Charlie McCann.  But, Cason adds,  "In so far as our individual vehicles and all, we pay for our own."

For structure fires, Decatur County Fire & Rescue, the only paid station in the county responds and also calls in the 3 closest volunteer units. But as one of the largest counties in the state, it's a lot of territory to be covered.  "We could run as far as 20 miles in one direction. And yes it does cause a problem for some of them," says Captain Charlie Harrell of the Volunteer Fire Station in Kendrick.

Veteran firefighters say as long as they can remember, gas prices have never been an issue for them.  "Not until probably the last 6 months," says Harrell.  And if things continue this way, they say it could create a real problem.  "You may have volunteers that may not be able to go," says McCann.

Now some are asking for help from the county.  Harrell says, "We have talked to Chief McCann some of us have mentioned this to him, I believe he has mentioned it to some of the county commissioners."   But McCann says they may not be in a position to offer much help.  "It's taking an effect on the county also. It's not just the fire service it's all the county departments."

They'll likely need to find their own fuel conservation methods to keep volunteers coming.  One gas-saving idea some units are trying out is to have more volunteers meet at the station and ride to the fire together on the engine instead of going directly to the scene.

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