Fire departments brace for budget cuts amid COVID-19 pandemic

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — As the pandemic continues, fire departments across the country are preparing for major cuts to their 2021 fiscal year budgets.

According to a recent study by the International Fire Chiefs Association, the financial burden is already being felt by some firefighters in the country.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters have been laid off, with projections estimating around 30,000 will be without jobs between 2020-2021.

“We’re just like any other department in the county or the city, our budgets are cut just like everybody else,” Chief Steve Allred said.

He is with the Pinecroft-Sedgefield Fire Department and operates as a contracted entity for Guilford County.

He explained that there have been no discussion on laying any firefighters off, that he knows of, in the county.

However, many departments could see several hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from their budgets for the upcoming year.

“For us, it’ll be about $800,000,” the chief explained.

Departments rely on sales taxes to contribute to the amount of money they get per year.

What has hurt that number is fewer people shopping, meaning fire departments across the country are seeing less money come in.

“It’s not like we just have money sitting around, to say, ‘Oh well, if the county’s not going to give us this amount of money,’” he said.

Fire departments are planing on various ways to cut costs.

Some departments have put a hiring freeze in place, while others are looking to hold off on buying new equipment.

Allred explained that this has put a strain on departments’ ability to prepare for crucial moments.

“If somebody left, and we don’t hire somebody before then, we won’t fill those positions. We need to add staff, for one, for the safety of our community, and the safety of our firefighters,” he said.

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