Coronavirus outbreak puts financial strain on volunteer fire dept.

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LEE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department in Lee County says lack of funding due to the coronavirus pandemic could stop its operations.

Charles Booth, Fire Chief of Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department, says he’s already cancelled one of two annual fundraisers, both of which bring in $800 the department needs.

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“That is what we use to pay for apparel for the firefighters,” says Booth.

There’s a misconception volunteer firefighters are paid and get benefits. They don’t, and they often have to pay for their own equipment.

Booth says they get some state and federal money, but they can’t use it for uniforms. The $11,000 each year from the state only comes if volunteers complete 20 hours of annual training, and the same goes for FEMA grants.

Booth says virtual training is now another obstacle.

“During this time it is very hard to get it. We have training; there are 20 or 30 of us all into the classroom,” says Booth.

There’s also a digital disconnect. Booth says many of the volunteers don’t have computers.

Now, nearly five months into the year and Booth says the department has only had three hours of training.

Booth says that’s why it was so hard to cancel the spring fundraiser. He hopes an online fundraiser will make up the difference, but the threat of a shut down looms.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 85-percent of the nation’s fire departments are all or mostly volunteer, and so losing them could be deadly.

To donate to the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department, visit its GoFundMe page.

Other volunteer fire departments trying to raise money at this time also include Lee County and Beattyville.