Firefighters pay out of pocket to keep fire dept. afloat

On top of being short on funds, fire officials said people have vandalized the department's fire trucks and taken fuel from them


Odessa American

ODESSA, Texas — Jimmy Ellis said he spent at least $3,500 out of his pocket last year to keep the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department going, noting that fighting fires in the county is one of his passions.

Ellis, fire chief for the department, said without the firefighters infusing their own money, everything from maintenance to bunker gear suffers.

The bunker gear — including the helmet, boots, self-contained breathing apparatus and more — weighs a total of 70 pounds. Volunteer Sean Dixon said he volunteers to give back to the community because that's where he grew up.

"If (someone) feels like giving something back to the community, this is the best way to do it," he added.

Stacie DeMoss does not have difficulty carrying the gear, she said. DeMoss said her favorite part of being a volunteer is being able to knock a fire out before the city firefighters arrive.

Costs for the electricity bill, fuel, water and gas bills add up, Ellis said. Fuel and electricity bills cost the department about $800 and $600 per month.

"We're not driving Toyotas (with better fuel mileage). We're driving trucks," Ellis said.

On average, they respond to 600 calls a year, with about one to 10 runs a day. That number increases during grass fire season, which also surpasses the number of runs for other volunteer fire departments on average, Ellis said.

Ellis said one year the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department went to more than 100 fires during the Fourth of July.

He said not a lot of people would provide their own money to keep a fire department going. Each of the 20 volunteers at his department have pitched in money, he added.

"We've all being pitching out of our own pocket ... I'm pretty proud of my guys because they do it for nothing," Ellis said.

On top of being short on funds, Ellis said because the trucks are left outside, people have vandalized them and taken fuel from them.

Ellis said he put his heart into the department for 30 years and won't let it go. He applies for grants and receives donations. He said the department is needed because of the size of the population.

Copyright 2015 Odessa American
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