Volunteer Fire Fighter Woes in Summers County - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Volunteer Fire Fighter Woes in Summers County

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SUMMERS COUNTY (WVVA) - It's been a busy few weeks for fire fighters in Summers County. Recent blazes have kept them hard at work, but even after the fires are out, the battle isn't over.

Fire fighting veteran of 32 years and Pipestem Fire Chief Butch Mansfield says lack of funding continues to be a struggle for Volunteer Fire Departments.

"None of the volunteer fire departments in the county receive any county funding at all," Mansfield said.

All six of the county's volunteer fire departments rely on a small budget from the state, approximately nine thousand dollars every quarter, and the private donations from local residents to keep their doors open. 

"It's very tight sometimes,"Mansfield said.

Equipment is expensive to say the least, and hard to come by. Pipestem Volunteer Fire Department just had to replace their 1980's model fire truck after it finally gave out.

Chief Mansfield says a new one runs for around $200, 000. The department settled for a used one, a bargain at $90,000.

"It is a very expensive proposition for small fire departments."

But it is a necessary expense. The entire county, including Pipestem state park which receives thousands of visitors each year relies on those volunteers.

"It's a large asset to have them so close," Assistant Superintendent Nathan Hanshaw said. "You are almost partners with them to a certain point. Last year they did a rescue on the tram, and it just goes to show the professionalism they have."

Chief Mansfield says the volunteers are now petitioning for a mandatory fire fee. The cost is only $25.00 per house. A small expense Mansfield says for homeowners that would give up to a twenty thousand dollar boost for each volunteer fire department.

"It would be a tremendous help for us," Mansfield said.

The petition drive is open to all registered voters in Summers County. Signatures are being accepted through April.

WVVA will continue to follow this story.

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