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How will volunteer fire, ambulance companies deal with rising fuel costs?

Another day, another challenge for volunteer fire departments across New York.

For years, we’ve heard first responders of all types- EMS, firefighters, and others say that lack of manpower has been a massive challenge. Lawmakers have toyed with the concept of tax breaks, or other minor perks to bolster volunteer first responder services. Largely, those measures have fallen short- and volunteer fire companies and ambulance services have remained understaffed.

Now though a new problem: The high cost of fuel.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

The Bath Fire Department is one of those agencies struggling.

“All of our staff here are volunteers, no one is compensated for their vehicle expenses or fuel their fuel tanks,” Bath VFD President Curtis Wininger told WETM-TV. “The distance people drive from their homes to the station varies.”

While some volunteers live in Bath- others do not. That’s a reality many volunteer first responder agencies have had to deal with as turnout numbers fell over the last two decades.

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To make matters worse, filling up fire trucks has also become difficult. “Unfortunately, the fuel costs are unavoidable,” Wininger said. “Fueling the trucks eats into other parts of the budget that could have bought equipment we needed.”

He says that overall, it simply erodes the department’s ability to get the essentials done.

Training, new equipment, protective gear- it all costs money. And with rising fuel costs on every departments radar- things are going to get worse before they get better.

While the Bath Fire Department remains committed- like all agencies across the state- it’s hard to imagine a scenario where this doesn’t eventually impact communities across Upstate New York. Especially rural communities where volunteer services are the only services available.