Volunteer firefighters may close down department

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The failed emergency service district election has the Melrose and Woden volunteer fire departments wishing they could call 911 for help.

"It's kinda a slap in the face, that how dare you ask us," said Bryan Loudenslager, Melrose volunteer firefighter. "But in the midst, if they have an emergency we're there all hours of the night. Now that we have an emergency that we need funding, we were unable to get that," said Loudenslager.

Opponents say it boiled down to one issue. "People are tired of paying property taxes and this was going to be another one of those," said Nathan Alders Jr. He actively campaigned against the proposal that would provide authorization to levy a tax not to exceed 10 cents on each $100 valuation of taxable property within the district.

The Woden Fire Department is contemplating closure. "We really feel unappreciated," stated Woden's fire chief, Rickey Jones. "I don't know what direction we're going to go, but we don't have money. It's up to the community to decide if they want a fire department, " said Jones.

In Melrose the plan is just short of a rummage sale. "We're going to have to sell off some equipment to go ahead and make ends meet," said Loudenslager. The department owes money on a truck they obtained through a matching grant. There won't be enough money to pay the notes if a whole lot of money doesn't come in within the next three months according to loudenslager.

Alders said no one needs to shut down or sell off. "I think what we may need to do is scale aback just a little bit and get a budget and work within that budget," said the retired career firefighter for the Nacogdoches Fire Department.

The departments say they're already doing that, out of necessity. "We got less than a $1000 coming in a month and pay utilities, fuel and just upkeep on apparatus is a strain and a burden," Loudenslager explained.

A portable sign on Highway 7 east once displayed a message asking for the defeat of the ESD proposal. It's now used to encourage people to donate to their local volunteer fire department. The owner is Alders. He presented a check of $150 to the Melrose fire department the day after the election.

Fire Chief Retires

Appleby is the first emergency service district in Nacogdoches County. Paid firefighters and new equipment -- but no chief. This week fire chief Tim Hooper told the department he's retiring. Hooper says he worked for no pay, everyday for 15 years. He tells us, he's tired of the politics and the changes underfoot in fire protection. Hooper's leaving the responsibility to someone else, so he can take some university classes. The department has named him "chief-emeritus".