Volunteer fire departments in Central Texas anticipate brush fires each year, but fire officials said they have witnessed an increase in 2017 that has strained budgets.
Bell County gives volunteer fire operations money each year, but local departments still have tight budgets -- meaning a few unforeseen expenses can quickly put them in a jam. Recently, Central Bell County Fire and Rescue had to unexpectedly replace several large tires after responding to a few calls near Stillhouse Hollow Lake. The price tag was nearly a thousand dollars per tire. Despite that, firefighters said they were still doing alright financially.
But, in other departments like Little River Academy, the story is different. This year alone, Little River Firefighters have spent $10,000 on repairs on to their vehicles -- with several trucks needing major work. On Thursday, only three out of five vehicles were running. A fire official said the repair costs had already eaten through half their budget.
The Stillhouse Volunteer Fire Department was shut down completely this year due to financial issues of its own.
Local fire departments hope fundraisers can recoup some of the costs. For example, the Little River Volunteer Fire Department will hold its annual barbeque fundraiser and silent auction on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the station, which is located at 509 E Main Street in Little River-Academy. Click here for directions. Officials said money from that event alone typically makes up around 25-percent of the department's budget.