MILLERSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — According to AAA, Monday’s national gas price average was $5.01 a gallon.

It’s putting a strain not only on motorists but also on first responders who are fighting to remain within a budget and still provide services to communities.

Columbia Fire & Rescue told News 2 the fuel bill is $22,000 more this year than last, at $53,000 dollars.

That pressure is even more pronounced on volunteer fire departments where staff is either not paid at all or only receives a small stipend.

Maury County Fire is all-volunteer, meaning first responders are paying out of their own pockets to get to emergencies or to the firehouse to roll out in station equipment.

In Millersville, the chief and assistant chief are full-time. All 18 other firefighters are volunteers. That means they must pay for their own gas, in their private vehicles, just to get to the emergency or the firehouse to begin a life-saving call.

“It’s a special group of people. Volunteer, in general, is a dying breed,” said Fire Chief Brandon Head.

According to Head, when there’s an emergency in Millersville, volunteer firefighters drive their own personal vehicles to the scene or to the firehouse.

“It’s affecting our guys more because they have to pay out of pocket for fuel. Calls for service come in at night, after hours, they come from their home, so they are having to put fuel in their tank to go to someone who is in need,” Chief Head said.

According to Chief Head, Millersville volunteers are paid $20 per call. That money is paid to the firefighters every six months.

But with the rising price of fuel, volunteering has become much more expensive.

“For the ones here, they are not doing it for the $20. They are doing it cause they want to help their community. Spending money out of their own pocket, sacrificing things at home, to make sure they have fuel in their trucks so they can go on calls in the middle of the night, and provide a service to their community,” Chief Head said.

According to Head, in the last few months, there has been a decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters responding to emergencies.

Head wonders if rising fuel prices are the cause.

Cordan: “When I think of a fire fighter, I just think, you’ve got to go, but in this case, you don’t have to go. They’re volunteers.”

Chief Head: “Maybe. Maybe not. It’s really hard to say if it is all based on fuel. But we have noticed a drop in response. We have a great group of people at the department. They are not going to complain. We have noticed a decrease in response. But we don’t know, is it fuel related, is it things going on at home? I know it is a reality, it is happening, and people are definitely feeling it. I hope it doesn’t come to the point where people are choosing, ‘do I go on a call at night or save my fuel to go to work tomorrow?’ It has not got to that point.”

So until fuel prices come down, volunteer firefighters will continue to do this job for pride, not pay.

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According to Chief Head, the city gas budget for all Millersville city vehicles, police included, has risen from $59,000 last year to $83,000 already this year, and there are two more weeks till the fiscal year is over.