NAZARETH, Pa. | Volunteer fire companies are struggling to raise money during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nazareth's Vigilance Hose Co. 1 responds to nearly 300 emergency calls per year and every piece of equipment, like jacks and struts, plays a role. They may not have the same "wow factor" as a firetruck, but they're no less important.

"This is probably more important because it keeps the victims and firefighters safe," Chief Jerry Johnson said, looking at a table lined with the tools.

For volunteer fire companies like his, Johnson says fundraisers are the fuel to buy equipment, hold training seminars, and do recruitment. But the coronavirus canceled major fundraisers this year like carnivals and bake offs.

Johnson says fundraising is down nearly 80 percent and makes up about 15 percent of the fire company's nearly $100,000 budget, meaning less money to buy necessary equipment.

He's also concerned about people not being able to give as much for their mailers that are set to be sent out.

"Over the long haul what I think it's going to do, I'm afraid, is affect fire safety," Johnson said.

Steve Hirsch, chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council, says volunteer companies, especially along the East Coast, are being hit hard compared to many of those out west that are taxpayer funded.

Aside from physical safety, he's concerned money meant for mental health programs will instead go to paying bills. He's lobbying Congress for financial help.

"Obviously, there are a lot of stimulus bills floating around and often times volunteer fire companies get left by the wayside," he said.

As for Johnson, his crew is getting creative, as car washes and online raffles are helping to supplement the coffers. But so too are other departments in the same financial bind. With only so many dollars available, Johnson is holding out hope public safety isn't put at risk.

"Not to that point yet, but it could be if this is really prolonged," he worries.

DISCLAIMER FOR COMMENTS: The views expressed by public comments are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the TERMS OF USE and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Your comments may be used on air. Be polite. Inappropriate posts or posts containing offsite links, images, GIFs, inappropriate language, or memes may be removed by the moderator. Job listings and similar posts are likely automated SPAM messages from Facebook and are not placed by WFMZ-TV.

Recommended for you