Bedford Co. Fire Chiefs React to Funding Changes

Bedford Co., VA - The way Bedford County funds its volunteer fire departments is changing and it has chiefs all over the county fired up.

The county has added nearly $36,000 to the fire budget, but the problem is how the money is going to be handed out.

The funding formula is changing and the chiefs say they've done the math the new way and they believe their departments will lose money.

Under the current method, each of Bedford County's 12 volunteer fire departments gets a yearly check from the county for $34,600.

The county reimburses departments for fuel and fax lines.

The new plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors is per call funding, like working on commission.

Each department will get a flat $25,000 plus $100 per call answered, paid quarterly.

Instead of being reimbursed at 100% for fuel and fax lines, fuel and fax line money will be deducted from those quarterly payments.

Just one big fire truck can burn more than $100 in fuel on just one call. Firefighters have to keep the trucks running because the pumps and lights get power from the engines.

The chiefs say they'll burn more money than they'll make on a call.

The county based the per call funding on a five year call average.

Big Island Fire Chief Brandon Cocke says the new system skews the numbers.

"About five or six years ago, our call numbers kind of spiked. We went up higher than what we had been doing in ten years prior to that. Of late, we've fallen anywhere between 20 and 30 calls per year from that time period they were using," Cocke said.

Volunteer agencies constantly fundraise and say they'll have to count on the generosity of the community even more.

The board is going to take a look at how the new formula is working out after six months.

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