Volunteer fire departments may face budget cuts in Taylor County

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ABILENE, Texas (KRBC)-The Taylor County Commissioners Court is currently holding its budget workshops at time of publication.

Gary Young of the Ecca Fire Department spoke on behalf of the Taylor County Fire Committee requesting more funding for updated equipment and other unfunded mandates. His department and departments across Taylor County are always struggling for basic needs. Young told commissioners his department cannot even afford to send its volunteers to the fire academy.

“People need to know that when they leave an incorporated city such as Abilene–that have paid fire protection–if you’re involved in a motor-vehicle accident, medical emergency, whatever, you’re in the hands of a volunteer fire department somewhere, and a vast majority of the state of Texas is covered by volunteers,” Young said.

Judge Downing Bolls told the court that the Texas Legislature is beginning to move financial decision-making for rural emergency services from the courtroom to the ballot box.

This kind of uncertainty is not only concerning for firefighters but also the residents they serve. Rebecca Castro, a resident and the spouse of volunteer firefighter said her husband is one of very few young volunteers. In her position, she understands the stakes of living without city emergency service response times.

“Of course, these are all volunteers, they’re not getting paid. They’re normally stopping in the middle of dinner or leaving a football game or something like that to put out fires,” said Castro. “What if they’re on the way to my house to put out a fire and the truck breaks down? That’s scary.”

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