MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - The Mississippi Firefighter Association said that if the Rural Fire Truck Acquisition Assistance Program isn't renewed soon, insurance rates will continue to rise.
The RFTAAP was put in place in 1995 to help assist fire departments with funding; however, the Mississippi legislature hasn't fully funded the grant in the past three years.
President of the Mississippi Firefighter Association Chief Pope said that without the proper funding, this causes departments to have higher fire protection rates, which causes insurance rates to increase.
"There's a certain point that it becomes a magic number that really effects and lowers the homeowners' insurance rates, but it also effects your commercial insurance policies as well," Pope said.
Many stations in the state are running on higher protection rates due to running on aged apparatus causing premiums to increase, according to Pope.
He said local budgets aren't enough to cover the costs.
"Firetrucks have gone up tremendously," Pope said "Fire trucks in the mid to late 1990, you could buy a class A apparatus to be used for rural and municipal response for between $175,000 to $195,00. That same apparatus, in today's money, is well over $240,000 up to $300,00, and that's a very basic truck."
Along with rising insurance rates, Lamar County Fire Coordinator George Stevens said that it's become more difficult for departments to function with the limited funding.
"It's a balance between your station, your equipment and your staffing," Stevens said. "A particular department here didn't benefit from the grant. Most of their money goes towards the trucks. They're not able to hire anyone."
Stevens released in a statement that the program assisted Lamar County in purchasing 16 fire apparatus, but they have "used all available grant rounds and supplemental grant funding opportunities."
He said that many of the trucks are well over 23 years old.
Pope said that the grant helped to "bridge the gap" in a funding need to help rural areas get the funding they needed to better serve the community.
"We hope that people in the community will contact their representative and let them know that this is important," said Pope. "This directly effects them daily for the fire protection capabilities to be in place to respond to them if they have that worst day."