State cuts for volunteer fire departments considered a 'big burden'

They sacrifice pay, family time and put their own lives on the line as volunteer firefighters.

Now, the 38 men and women who make up the La Feria Volunteer Fire Department may have to sacrifice essential training and gear in the face of state budget cuts.

"It's gonna put a big burden on us," Chief Rick Garcia said.

The chief says he's seen his budget nearly triple over the last 4 years to cover the rising costs of things like fuel, gear and training.

The department receives no money from the city.

Budget expense are largely covered by state grants, which were slashed all across Texas last year from $24 million to just $7 million, according to reports.

"If the funding is cut to where I can't send my men and women to get properly trained... their lives and the lives of those we're trying to rescue or save... they're in jeopardy," the chief explained.

The average cost to fully outfit a firefighter is around $8,500 dollars, according the State Firemen's and Fire Marshal's Association of Texas.

The chief says he's forced to get creative to raise funds for gear.

Departments with even less resources than his in La Feria have turned to him for hand-me-down equipment just to keep their volunteers safe, according to the chief.

Firefighter David Phinney admits he sometimes pulls from his own pockets to get the job done.

Eric Garcia worries what will happen if funds are reduced further?

"Who suffers," Action 4 News Reporter Ryan Wolf asked?

"Everybody does," Firefighter Garcia said. "Both firefighters and the community."

A community that depends on ordinary citizens to do extraordinary work to save both property and lives.

The State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas says while $7 million in grants may still sound like a lot, it isn't when you're spreading it across 1,400 volunteer fire departments statewide.