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Uncertain of future fundraisers, Reno VFD will ‘make it work’

A small volunteer fire department weighs in on the financial impact of COVID-19
Inside the Reno Volunteer Fire Department in Washington County, Ohio.
Inside the Reno Volunteer Fire Department in Washington County, Ohio.(Zach Shrivers)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:47 PM EDT
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RENO, Ohio (WTAP) -The Reno Volunteer Fire Department hasn’t officially cancelled their annual ice cream social, but the deputy chief thinks they will. It won’t be the first fundraiser for local volunteer fire departments cancelled by the coronavirus; it wouldn’t even be the first cancelled by Reno VFD. 

Volunteer departments like Reno’s often depend on the money made on socials and other fundraisers to upgrade equipment and to buy extra things, like food when firefighters are out on long calls. Reno in particular has been saving for years to build a larger garage, but now Deputy Chief Jon Bradford thinks construction will be delayed another one to three years. 

There are more immediate needs at the department as well. Some of their equipment is about to become out-of-date. Without upgraded gear, the department may have to limit what some volunteers do for their own safety. However, Bradford says the department is lucky because they upgraded a lot of equipment last year, so there isn’t much left to get. 

“We’ll have to limit what they do,” said Bradford. “Some guys might just drive the truck. We don’t want to do that, but if our hands are tied, we’ll have to do something. I think we’ll be alright. We don’t have that many more we need to go.”

Bradford says the department also spent a significant amount of money on personal protective equipment when the virus became prominent, which set them back more. 

“We applied for some grants through FEMA to try to get reimbursed for some of that, but we haven’t heard a word on that,” said Bradford.

The department gets a lot of operating money from tax levies and third party billing from their ambulance service. But, Chief Dan Ritchey says roughly 20% of their annual budget comes from their fundraisers. That said, Firefighters don’t want the public to worry.

“There will be no interrupted services to the community or outlying areas that we help, other fire departments,” said Bradford. “We’ll just look at things very hard. We’ll do what we can to make things work. Like we have done for years; we make do with what we got and we make it work somehow and we just go with it.”

As fundraisers are cancelled, some may consider asking for more donations, but Reno firefighters are hesitant. 

“We didn’t want to go ask any of the businesses for any kind of donation. Some would probably insist on it, but we didn’t want to ask until things kind of got back up and everyone was working again,” said Bradford.

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