Questions over Texas volunteer firefighter funding


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

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Posted on June 13, 2013 at 11:22 PM

AUSTIN -- Protective gear, brush trucks and hoses are necessities for any fire department, and they're not cheap. This is why volunteer fire departments across the state of Texas rely on funds collected through a tax on insurance policies.

This week, State Lawmakers in Austin approved $18 million a year for volunteer fire departments.

That’s nearly $10 million more than the last budget session; however, it’s just more than half of the $30 million Texas collects each year specifically for volunteer firefighters.

“If they don't have the funds to fix trucks or buy the equipment they need, they're not going to be able to respond in a timely fashion,” said Chris Barron with the State Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association.

"78% of the fire service in Texas is volunteer fire department, so a lot of those departments rely on the state's help and support."

According to Barron, the $18 million a year, for the next two years, isn’t nearly enough.

“The VFDs are still operating on shoestring budgets all across Texas."

Barron says they need the full $30 million designated for volunteer fire departments to save other's lives and their own.

“We had the worst wildfire season ever in 2011, we've had 18 line of duty deaths already, and we have $150 million of outstanding requests. It's disheartening, and where's our hope left?"

In a statement to KVUE, Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams praised the increase in funds from last year, but said quote "funding for volunteer fire departments had to be weighed along with other potentially life and death items, like Medicaid."

However, since that money was collected for volunteer firefighters, Barron said they should be entitled to all of it.