Rising gas prices raising concerns for volunteer fire departments

Volunteer firefighters hit hard by rising gas prices
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 6:11 PM EDT
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DERBY, CT (WFSB) - As gas prices continue to rise, it’s raising some concerns with volunteer fire departments.

The cost is starting to add up for members.

We’re hovering around $5 a gallon.

For volunteers who drive their cars to the station, a number of times a week, responding to calls, it can get costly.

“When our family arrived here and joined the fire department, they were using horses, so the gas problem wouldn’t have been anything on their minds,” said Derby Fire Chief David Lenart.

For Lenart, a fourth-generation fire chief in Derby, those gas prices that keep going up are now at the forefront for plenty of volunteer firefighters.

“Gas is very expensive and our members use a lot of gas, they’re driving back and forth to the firehouses, each fire house conducts a meeting and training, at least once a week, so right off the bat, round trip once a week and that’s not counting calls, emergencies,” Lenart said.

In derby there are four fire stations with more than 100 volunteer members who respond to fires and accidents.

“It is something we’re concerned about because we’d hate to see our members being put in that situation where, what are they sacrificing to put gas in their car to come volunteer for the city,” said Lenart.

Lenart said he actually spoke with the mayor last week, trying to come up with ideas to help.

One idea includes picking names out of a hat for those who responded to calls the prior week and providing gas cards.

The city does offer up to a $1000 property tax break for members, depending on years of service and how many calls one goes on.

“The ambulance corps, which is also volunteer agency, they offer a paper call stipend for reimbursement for the time you’re on the call. That does help a little bit for the ambulance members,” Lenart said.

The chief added the city puts up thousands of dollars to train and equip volunteers, so to lose even just one to the rising cost of gas would sting.

“It’s just something we have to keep an eye on. Fortunately, right now we haven’t had any members quit, not come around or say they’re not responding because of it, but every time you go to a pump and finish pumping gas and you look at that sticker shock, it starting to add up and it’s starting to worry us,” said Lenart.

The chief’s father said back in the 70s during the energy crisis, volunteer firefighters in Derby got an extra three gallons of gas when it was their turn at the pump.

They helped then and he said it’s why they’re looking into ways to help now.