Budget cuts could slow Marion County fire response - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Budget cuts could slow Marion County fire response

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WHITESIDE, MARION COUNTY (WRCB)-- Channel 3 has learned how a person died inside Whiteside home Wednesday.

The body was found in the burned out home in Marion County, and it took firefighters 30 minutes to arrive to the scene.

All Marion County Fire Departments are volunteer. A half hour response is typical for rural areas, when the firefighters aren't on the payroll.  But some budget cuts are on the way in Marion County that could make the response time even longer in the coming months.

Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett is still waiting on DNA tests to positively identify the man who died in Wednesday's fire.

Burnett says the autopsy showed he died from smoke inhalation.

"We have nothing to believe it was arson," the Sheriff says. "My personal belief is accidental, but we won't know that for sure for a couple months later."

Had this fire happened a couple months later, there's no telling how far it could have spread.

There are 13 volunteer fire departments and 10 of them, all in rural locations like Wednesday's fire, are losing 75 percent of the county funding January 1.

Marion County volunteers like Ryan Meeks and Bobby Ambrester say some departments may close for good.

"It would be almost impossible I think," Meeks says. "The response time would double in areas."

Not only would response times double, but if your town lost its fire department your insurance could go up.

Ambrester says the trickle down effect on the community would be terrible.

Ambrester has been with Sweetens Cove Fire Department since opening in 1992. They're number one truck was brand new in 1967. They're insurance costs $4,500 a year, with the county promising a mere $2,000 for now.

"We're going to have to raise a lot of money," says Ambrester.

Volunteers fear their life saving services are being overlooked, and something needs to happen before it's too late.

These unsung heroes take nothing home, not even a penny.

"It's just satisfaction that we help people," Ambrester says. "It's nice to know, if you live in the rural areas, you can pick up the telephone, and say 'I need some help'."

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