New Law Gives Rural Fire Departments A Boost - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/15/03

New Law Gives Rural Fire Departments A Boost

Many East Texas communities count on small volunteer fire departments in times of emergency. Unfortunately, those departments can't always afford the kind of supplies and equipment needed to be as effective as possible. That will soon change, as proposition 10, approved by Texas voters, opens the door for bigger departments to pass down their old equipment. The Lindale volunteer fire deparment is luckier than some. They're designated an emergency services district, which makes them eligible for extra funding. But, hamburger suppers are still the norm here when it comes to adding extra equipment. That's why the passing of proposition 10 is such a big deal to them and others like them.

"It's like Christmas day when you get something new", says Lindale volunteer firefighter Kelly Hayes, "especially from a city like Longview or Tyler, because stuff like that, it just doesn't happen."

Smith County fire marshal Jim Seaton knows first hand what these firefighters are going through. He is the former chief of the dixie volunteer deparment, and now works closely with all the county's volunteer units.

"A lot of departments can't afford the $20,000 and $30,000 for the jaws of life", says Seaton, "so they are still operating with the come alongs and the can openers, and this could enable a rural fire department to provide better protection to the citizens driving in the road."

"All the people out in the county", adds Tyler Fire Chief Neal Franklin, "they're familiar with their volunteer fireman, and they realize the plight sometimes that their departments are in so this is an opportunity to improve the service for not only the people way out in the county, but for the people in our e-t-j which is right next to our city lines.

Whether it's  $100 for a helmet, $500 for a bunker jacket, or $3,500 for an air pack, just having one these could make all the difference between life and death.

"For the guys that, put in their own money and their own time away from their families to come up here, and they don't have the best equipment, to get something donated, or a truck given to them or an air pack, it means everything in the world", says Hayes.

Kevin Berns, reporting.

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