Fire Funding Dried Up in Marion County - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Fire Funding Dried Up in Marion County

MARION COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Things are getting back to normal Tuesday, at the Seymour Facility in the town of Sequatchie.

Monday night, it took firefighters six hours to put out the fire in a boiler room. That's a tough night for the group who does the job for free.

The Sequatchie Valley Fire Department consists of nearly 200 volunteers from 12 areas, and now that funding has dried up, they may put the hose down for good.

Marion County Mayor John Graham said, "Funding for the firefighters has not always been there. They were created years ago without any county money."

Monday night, the heated debate over funding left a few firefighters burned when the county suddenly decided to cut all funding. That decision was announced after county commissioners passing a measure to raise property taxes by fifty cents.

Leonard Cofer of the Sequatchie Valley Fire Board said, "They gave us no notice that we were going to get no funds this year. We just bought a new truck."

The volunteer budget is around $30,000 and with a multi-million dollar county shortfall, the mayor says some departments will have to fend for themselves.

Mayor Graham said, "Unfortunately, we are borrowing money to operate government and we have to get out of that mode."

The average response time for the Sequatchie volunteer group is about 30-45 minutes.

If they stop responding, the closest fire department would easily take more than two hours according to Cofer.

Cofer said, "The people are the ones that are really going to hurt."

Cofer said one of two things will happen: The cash-strapped fire department will burn through what money they have left, or the county will perform a miracle. Either way, he says he's not holding his breath.

"At this point, we will have to shut the doors. We can't afford to insure our equipment and our people and roll."

The mayor does have hope that some funding can be restored.

He said he wants to talk with other departments to see if cuts can be made there to supplement firefighters, but those conversations won't happen for a few weeks.

Until then, firefighters will continue doing their job until funds run dry.

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