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Grant funds in demand for volunteer fire departments

A number of volunteer fire departments are pursuing grant funds to help offset cost from active wildfire season (Drew Powell ABC 7 News)

Drought conditions are having a negative impact on a number of volunteer fire departments in the Texas Panhandle. Many volunteer departments are responding to more wildland fires than in the spring of 2017. The rise in call responses is forcing many departments to apply for grants to help offset costs.

“It’s always worth the time it takes to apply for a grant because volunteer departments can’t or couldn’t operate without additional help,” said Ed Adamson, Fritch VFD Chief.

Adamson tells ABC 7 News the problem magnifies for many volunteer departments during and after an active fire season. There are opportunities to recoup some of the cost a volunteer fire department encounters thanks to grant funding through Texas Forest Service and FEMA.

“It doesn’t mean were going to get one (grant) probably for every ten we apply for, we get one,” said Adamson. “We may get one or we may not get any. It’s according to how you apply for it and which grants your applying for.”

“Often times these grants require us to complete monitoring paperwork throughout the grant being dispersed,” said Drew Brassfield, Fritch city manager. “Often times we fill out the paperwork after the grant has been fully dispersed.”

Other sources of revenue for the their $90,000 budget are subsidies from counties they provide mutual aid to along with fundraisers and donations. Each year volunteer departments hold fundraisers as money raised from bake sales or raffles can help cover the next expense.

“You'd be lucky to raise maybe a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars per event,” said Adamson. “If you go out on a grass fire and run over a stump and bust two tires, there went your fifteen hundred dollars. It doesn’t take long to eat up your fundraising funds.”

“It does save the city some money by not having paid positions for a fire department,” said Brassfield. “At the same time we have a budget for the fire department and it still cost the city money but it’s money well spent.”

The Fritch VFD was awarded a Fire Rescue Grant from TFS but it requires the department to spend $26,000 before it receives 75 percent reimbursement which comes out to $20,000 according to chief Adamson.

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