Special Report: Fire Fee

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – What used to be a shack sheltering equipment is now a life-saving service right around the corner in east Alabama.

Volunteer fire departments are being called on more often than not and a recent tax is helping them evolve.

"There's been a lot of change in the fire departments throughout the years," said David Martin, Ladonia Fire Chief.

"I've been part of this organization since 2002. Since 2002, we've had a lot of changes, upgrades to our fire stations. Before it was just a metal building to house the trucks," said Josh Datnoff, Farmville Fire Chief.

From Farmville to Beauregard to Ladonia. Volunteer fire departments are sitting around every corner and now they are doing more work than ever.

"Average it out across a week, we average about three to four calls a week, but other departments in our area are running twelve calls a day. It just depends on where you are," said Datnoff.

"We have our own truck that focuses just on the Smiths Station community and we will be available for the Smiths Station community," said Daniel Sexton, Smiths Station Assistant Fire Chief.

Just this February, Smiths Station launched its own ambulance system serving its nearby communities, approximately 35,000 people.

"That sounds good. They will be right here, especially if we need them," said a Smiths Station community member.

This is all made possible by the Fire Fee Fund first approved back in 2012.

"The funding for us, it pretty much kept our doors open when it passed," said Datnoff.

"There's some stations that are actually getting to rebuild because of it," said David Martin, Ladonia Fire Chief.

The fund is attached under property tax but is considered a subscription rather than a tax. The fee amounts to about $50 per month attached on property owners tax in the volunteer department's jurisdiction.

The fee is making a difference for departments and also makes it possible for the firefighters to get the training they need as well.

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