Epic Year of Wild Fires End, $18M Slashed from Volunteer Fire Fighter Budget

By: Nicole Morten Email
By: Nicole Morten Email

It's the newest member of the Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department in Caldwell.

"This truck is our utility truck it's kind of everything to us, it's our first responders vehicle and for wildfires," explained Beaver Creek Fire Chief Lee Hall.

The station received the $60,000 vehicle through a state grant.

“A significant milestone we passed in 2010 is that every department that requested a vehicle got one,” explained Texas Forest Service Director Tom Boggus.

It's funding that Fire Chief Lee Hall says helps fuel this 12 man department in rural Burleson County.

“We solely survive off of donations,” added Hall. “My operating budget realistically is $22,000 to $23,000 a year and that's bare minimum -- That's just what it takes to keep fuel in the trucks, not repair vehicles. We are lucky our home owners association pays for our insurance, because we wouldn't be able to be out there driving the trucks."

As the state faces economic challenges - lawmakers are slashing $18 million from a $25 million fund. This fund directly affects volunteer fire departments like Beaver Creek.

“It's a daily struggle,” added Hall. “We have enough money to make it, or we don't have enough money to make it."

“The cuts are going to be significantly found in vehicles, rolling stock, fire engines,” explained Boggus.

The remaining $7 million will be allocated upon request for training costs and protective gear for the nearly 1,500 volunteer fire departments across the state. And as the economy slowly recovers, the men and women on the front line will be facing a challenging future.

“La Nina conditions are still here and so the forecast is not good so our volunteer firefighters are still going to be challenged this spring," said Boggus.

But it's a challenge that Hall says he's not willing to give up any time soon.

“If people don't volunteer and you call 911 then who's going to come?” questioned Hall. “The spirit of volunteering is dying. If someone dials 911 at 2 o'clock in the morning they expect help to come. If I dial 911, I pray that help will come. If we didn't have volunteers then where will we be?”


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