Firefighters going to new lengths to find funding

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Many communities are being forced to make tough decisions on how to spend the limited funds available during the this recession. Even essential services, like public safety, facing cuts.

Firefighters in Richmond say competition for available money is fierce.

Firefighters say public safety used to be the sacred cow of budget cuts, meaning it couldn't be touched. Captain William Martin of the Richmond Fire Department says nowadays, everything is fair game.

"With everybody shrinking budgets, with the recession and everything, the dollar isn't worth as much," he said. "We have to try to provide the same services to the citizens as we have in the past and you just have to do it with less money."

Now fire departments are looking toward grant money to help pick up the budgetary slack.

The Richmond Fire Department has secured millions of dollars to replace Station 17 in south Richmond. The Fire Department says the building is just too old and actually has room to store hay from when they used to use horses.

Station 17 is more than 100 years old. Lieutenant Mike Harman works out of it and says often firefighters bump into each other working inside.

"The space in this fire station is very limited," he said. "It becomes difficult to work around."

Firefighters say funding for improvements like this wasn't a problem in the past, but nowadays they have to convince others it's needed.

"Whereas you might have gotten something before that was on your wish list, now you tend to focus on, ok, what are we lacking that the budget just can't seem to support," Martin said.

In the last year or so the Richmond fire department has been given nearly $6 million in grant money to pay for things like surveillance equipment, smoke detectors and even hiring more firefighters.

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