Advocate editorial board opinion: People providing fire protection in county do it for free

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 14, 2011 at 6:14 a.m.

We are fortunate to have all of the volunteer fire departments that are ready to protect areas of the county against fires.

Many times, these dedicated firefighters are the first to respond to a fire out in the county and beyond.

And we are pleased that Victoria County has an account to assist these departments because they get the bulk of their money from donations, fundraisers and grants.

The county's account began with $40,000 in January, and now $10,000 remains that could go to the 10 volunteer fire departments to defray their costs for fuel this year.

Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray said last year, the combined number of fires fought by volunteer fire departments in Victoria County totaled 129.

"But since Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, that number this year was 319 fires," he said.

We understand that fire trucks and other motor-driven fire equipment run on fuel. And that cost must be hard to cover for these departments during the drought-driven fires we've had.

"This year has been a catastrophic year with the drought and a lot of calls. The departments are struggling and need help with fuel costs. It's a good idea for the county to provide support for them," Pray said.

Pray said the $40,000 account was used to assist volunteer fire departments for various things, such as matches for grants, purchases of fire trucks and emergency repair of equipment.

He said helping the departments with the cost of fuel would be relevant assistance. The departments would receive the funds on a percentage basis - those responding the most would get the largest percentage.

We agree with this kind of distribution.

"This is something they do for free. They see people lose their houses and lose their lives," Pray said. He added that the men and women of the volunteer fire departments care and want to help.

"And they do help out a lot in different areas of the county."

We agree, and we praise these folks for their dedication. And we acknowledge that they are saving all of us lots and lots of money in terms of salaries, equipment, fuel, engines, hoses and time.

"They give up time with family - out in the cold, heat and rain," Pray said.

According to a 2010 report by the National Fire Protection Association, services provided by volunteer firefighters save U.S. taxpayers $128 billion each year.

We don't know how much Victoria County volunteer fire departments save local taxpayers, but we know the amount would be substantial.

We urge the county to assist these valuable and needed volunteer fire departments.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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