VFDs fighting for funding - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

VFDs fighting for funding

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -- Many East Texas Fire Departments learned they would get the funds they were banking on from Smith County Emergency Services District #2 but two others weren't so lucky.

The ESD board recently voted to collect less money from tax payers... leaving some fire departments worried that they may have smaller budgets next year.

"Well, obviously as a lot of people already know we're in one of the busiest wild fire seasons in Texas history. I've been a volunteer fireman for forty years and this is the worst I've ever seen," Whitehouse Fire Chief Ronny Fite said.

At the meeting, volunteer fire fighters learned the ESD denied money to pay the Noonday and Chapel Hill fire chief salaries, as well as Jackson Heights's fuel re-reimbursement.

"They questioned why their fuel bill was five times higher than everyone else. The majority of the fires that we've had, had been in their district. When you're paying almost $4 per gallon for diesel fuel and you're running your trucks 24 hours a day for five, six, seven days at a time, you're going to have a higher bill than everyone else," Smith County Volunteer Fire Department Association President Tommy Brock said.

The board wanted a Jackson Heights representative to explain that, but they were busy fighting a fire.. not present.. so the funds were denied.

As far as Noonday and Chapel Hill are concerned, the board said it was against their policy to pay chiefs.

A policy that was news to the volunteer departments who said those chiefs have been paid with ESD funds for about three years.

"Do the rules change frequently around here? It's like a mother duck they're waking up in another world every five minutes. Every time we come to a meeting they have something different they've been pulling on us,"  Brock said.

It's a battle that Smith County officials don't want to see played out on television.

"Quit your arguing in the media," Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton said.

But leaving fire fighters feeling like they don't have a choice.

The Jackson Heights crew arrived from their fire and at the meeting just as it was wrapping up. They explained why their fuel costs were so high and their reimbursement was granted.

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