LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) – When Fire Departments make their yearly budgets, one place they can’t cut corners is what they spend on fuel. They have a responsibility to get their trucks where they’re needed, as quickly as possible, no matter how much gas it takes to get there.
Unfortunately for the Lewisburg Fire Department, and many other departments, that means because of the steep rise in diesel prices, their operating costs have gone way up.
“If (diesel prices) continue to rise, continue to stay up there at five, six dollars a gallon, these trucks only get five or six miles to the gallon so every mile we drive is going to cost us around a dollar,” said Lewisburg FD Chief Joseph Thomas.
Thomas also said the department has increased their budget allocation for fuel costs by 30 percent for the next year, but if diesel prices don’t come down soon, that still won’t be enough.
“We never know how many extra runs we’re going to have to do or anything so we always budget high. This year budgeting high at least allowed us to come within budget. Like I said we added the 30% next year, but 30% is not going to bring us within budget next year,” said Chief Thomas.
That means the department will have to cut those costs somewhere else, and Chief Thomas said it’s more than likely the department will have to cut out purchasing new tools and equipment that help them save lives.
Thomas also added he knows the volunteer firefighters in his department are being especially hurt by the rising gas prices.
Lewisburg Fire Department has 24 volunteers in addition to 8 full-time employees. Many of those volunteers drive from all over Greenbrier County to get to the station, just to volunteer their time to serve the community.
“Our volunteers, they take the hit,” said Thomas. “Those guys are paying five dollars a gallon without any compensation at all. So just for the guys to drive to the station and back it’s a big hit for them now out of their own pocket.”