East Texas Volunteer Fire Department Struggling To Stay In Operation - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/12/05-Flint-Gresham

East Texas Volunteer Fire Department Struggling To Stay In Operation

Last year, the Flint-Gresham Fire Department responded to more than 400 emergencies, and now they are about to run into some serious financial problems. The fire department has a $35,000 deficit it must make up by the end of the year. If they don't, they'll have to begin selling off equipment that's needed to keep their community safe.

"We respond to fires, medical emergencies, car accidents, hazardous materials, just public services," said Lieutenant Kevin Sobotka of the Flint-Gresham Fire Department. It costs a lot of money to do that. In the month of August, the Flint-Gresham fire department spent $450 on gas alone, and it says it expects that number to be even higher for September. The electric bill per month is more than $700.00. The cost of a fire truck is about $140,000.

"We're not an incorporated city, so we don't get any city money here," said Sobotka. "We don't tax public for fire service, so all the money we need to operate comes strictly from donations from the public, so without their support we can't be here." The Flint-Greshman Fire Department says its donations have gone down the past few years, at a time where the population is growing and the cost to operate is getting higher.

"The primary thing that concerns all emergency services like fire departments are the price of fuel, it's gone up 30 to 35 percent the last year," said Oren Hale, Smith County Assistant Fire Marshal. That and more people are giving to recent disasters, like the hurricanes. What happens if there were no fire volunteer fire department?

"Watch their home burn, what their loved ones die," said Hale. "That's about as plain and simple as it can be." The Flint-Gresham Fire Department says it will do everything it can to stay in operation, but it needs the communities help. Other volunteer fire departments in Smith County say they are struggling as well. They say many people don't even realize they live in the county because they may have a Tyler address. The Smith County Fire Marshal's office says the city of Tyler has no obligation to respond anywhere outside the city limits. That's why the volunteer fire departments are so important.

Molly Reuter, reporting. mreuter@kltv.com

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