Pandemic putting squeeze on local fire department budgets, equipment

MT. PLEASANT TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The coronavirus pandemic has put local fire departments in a tough spot financially. A year of festivals, fundraisers and fish fries were canceled and now they’re struggling to make budget.

For the first time in nearly four decades, generations of families didn’t come together to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Mt. Pleasant Township Fire Department.

“If it wasn’t enough to lose the money and not have the money coming in, you kind of lost your spirit a little bit,” said Chief Adam Lohr of the Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s just been difficult, you don’t know what to expect, things are changing on a daily basis.”

Lohr said the cancelation was a major blow, a loss of $50,000. That’s an entire year’s worth of funding.

In Penn Hills, an aging truck and battered gear won’t be replaced.

“We see a fair amount of calls and our gear shows it. It sees the wear and tear a lot of our vehicles do,” said Chief Bill Jeffcoat of the Penn Hills Volunteer Fire Department #7.

Their largest money maker of the year, a gun bash, was postponed and eventually moved to Zoom. Jeffcoat said there was barely a profit.

“We’re in the same boat as everyone else - trying to stretch a dollar as far as it will go,” Jeffcoat said.

For now, life-saving equipment that firefighters rely on is on hold.

“This personal protective equipment, it’s life and death for the person wearing it. For the person who needs that firefighter to make it just a little further into the building, to find that person stuck in a bedroom or down from smoke inhalation,” Jeffcoat said.

Local fire departments are asking for the public’s help to pay the bills and ensure that when you need them, they are there with the equipment they need.