Expanding population & COVID-19 straining already thin budgets for volunteer fire departments

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Moores Mill and New Market Volunteer Fire Departments recently welcomed new firefighters that completed three months of training. While it’s a major win to get new recruits, the second hurdle is equipping the new firefighters to properly save lives.

Between constant population growth around Huntsville and the ongoing pandemic, Zachary Trulson, the president of Moores Mill VFD, says his budget only got tighter and sometimes had to shrink.

“Each of the sets of turnouts that we have is going to cost between $3,000-5,000,” said Trulson as he watched his newest recruits complete their final stages of initial training. Trulson also has an EMS job while spending a lot of time crunching numbers and looking for the best deals to properly supply his firefighters.

The Madison County Commission recently approved his request for the purchase of an $85,000 fire truck to expand services in the Mt Carmel community.

“That cost is actually about $15,000 a year that’s what it’s going to cost out of our budget for that fire truck,” said Trulson.

Moores Mill will be decreasing their training and EMS budget next year to pay for air packs, a critical tool to keep firefighters safe.

“These keep our firefighters alive inside of the fire,” said Trulson.

The air packs that Moores Mill currently has are set to expire soon. Buying 30 newer ones will cost more than a fire truck and some houses.

“That cost is going to be just over $200,000. So again, we are looking at $16-22,000 out of our budget for air packs,” said Trulson.

There’s no cash to cover these costs. It’s loan after loan and sometimes a grant will save the day.
Which has come in handy during the pandemic. Volunteer fire departments are not technically focused on medical response. Their priority is fire suppression. However, upwards of 80 percent of Moores Mill’s calls are medical.

“This last year we spent roughly $24,000 on EMS supplies. $15,000 of that came from a CARES Act grant. We are hoping to get an additional $20,000 grant to catch up on costs,” said Trulson.

Call volume for individual volunteer fire departments across Madison County are rising upwards of five percent as more people move in. Madison County hasn’t passed a mill for additional tax funding for volunteer fire departments in more than a decade.

The Moores Mill Volunteer Fire Department welcomes anyone interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter to give them a call.

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