High gas prices impact volunteer firefighters around the Ozarks

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 5:10 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2022 at 5:29 PM CST
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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - The high cost of gas is impacting a lot of professions across the Ozarks including rural fire districts.

When it comes to a fire, the Aurora Fire Protection District will first head to the station, grab their gear, and go where needed. When it comes to a medical call, they’ll go straight to the call in their personal vehicle with to-go bags, which has all the supplies for any medical emergency.

Volunteer firefighter Crystal Mourning says the second option is more practical.

“It’s a faster response because we’re coming directly from our home, and sometimes our home is closer than the station,” said Mourning. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense when we have a limited budget to utilize our brush truck, which would be our most appropriate truck, when we can just hop into our private vehicles.”

Mourning said while it’s easier, the recent rise in gas prices is making these drives costly. It costs her $75 to fill her truck up. Volunteers at the Aurora Fire Protection District get reimbursed only $8 per call.

“I take my truck on medical calls because we’re a rural district and sometimes it’s difficult to get to homeowners front door,” said Mourning. “When I get twelve miles to the gallon, it makes a difference.”

Fire Chief Aaron Siegrist says gas prices are another thing making it difficult to recruit and retain volunteers. He said normally there’s 30 to 35 volunteers, but right now there’s only around 25.

“Fifteen years ago, you would have ten or twelve applications a month,” said Siegrist. “In the last six to eight months, we’ve had zero applications turned in. Volunteers is hard to come by.”

Mourning said, despite the increase of prices, she has a job to do.

“At the end of the day, the thing that doesn’t change is our duty to the people that live in our district,” said Mourning. “We made a promise to them and we’re going to keep it.”

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