Hundreds of firefighters from across Texas visited the State Capitol Wednesday morning for a Legislative and Appreciation Day for volunteer fire departments and the Marshals’ offices of emergency services.
Every year during the legislative day, volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty are recognized for their sacrifice.
One firefighter out of Wharton, Texas lost his life last year in the line of duty. His name is being etched into the Volunteer Firefighter Memorial on the Capitol grounds.
As he is remembered, the group of firefighters will work to remind lawmakers that they need help keeping others safe over the next year.
State funding for volunteer fire departments is taking a big hit. It is going from $30 million to $7 million. Those departments are already facing financial strains.
The State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas represents 21,000 state firefighters. The Association says more than 80 percent of volunteer firefighters are reporting taking a personal hit in the budget crisis. They have started using their own money to help pay for equipment and supplies.
“We've seen budget cuts, but this is the worst time that we've ever seen,” said Executive Director Chris Barron. “As far as the budget crisis and the fuel cost stuff for example continues to go up and it doesn't help us out any whatsoever, so with the rising fuel and the budget cuts from the state it's taken a great effect. I think the citizens and the public is going to see that.”
Most of the State of Texas is protected by volunteer departments. There are 879 volunteer departments compared to 114 paid departments and 187 departments that are a combination of both paid and volunteer firefighters.
Currently 16 bills are filed at the Capitol that would impact state firefighting efforts. The Association supports 13 of the bills which they say would help their efforts, but they oppose three of the bills which they argue are destructive and could hurt public safety.
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