SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) – According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the inflation rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in 40 years.
That affects you at home, but it also affects how those around you serve and protect you.
At the Spring Hill Fire Department, Chief Terry Hood is dealing with cost increases across the board.
A turnout coat that cost $1,800 in 2019 costs $2,560 today. Pants cost $620 more today than two years ago. Fire boots have gone up from $415 to $525/. Fire Helmets cost $695 in 2019; today those same helmets cost the department $818. And an air pack is much more expensive, going from $5,840 to $8,205 dollars.
Hood says he’s never had to deal with anything like this.
Then there’s the inflationary effects on fire trucks. In 2019, the city purchased a brand new fire truck for 1.6 million. Hood says in today’s inflation-fueled world, the same rig now costs 2 million dollars, $400,000 more dollars for the same equipment.
And then there’s the necessary issue of fuel to keep all those trucks running.
The gas budget for the truck in today’s story is $850 dollars per month.
Hood says things are so tight that for the first time since he became chief, he had to ask city leaders for more money just to keep fire trucks rolling.
“Like I was telling you before about fuel costs, in my eight years we have budgeted about $35,000 for fuel. This year, I’m asking for a budget adjustment to get us between February and June an additional $20,000 just to pay for fuel. We will be about $20,000 short, and we have to go to the city and say, ‘Hey, we need more money for fuel, because we cannot continue to run until the end of the year without money,'” Hood said.
Hood says inflation also impacts how many firefighters he can hire due to rising costs in equipment to outfit those men and women. Less firefighters means less coverage.
“Correct. For the same services we had two years ago, it’s almost doubled this year. Think about that, what we could give you in service two years ago. It’s half of that now.”
Hood says dealing with the inflation is very frustrating.
“It is, because when I keep going back to the city asking for fuel, for this, for that, it looks like I am not a good manager, but in all reality, everyone knows inflation has gone up and it is hurting us,” he said.
When asked where the money must come from, Hood says, taxpayers and sales taxes are the source.
“Like I said, there’s only so much of that pie available for all the departments. Public works, police, us and city hall. There is only so much squeezed out of the tax money before you cannot provide some services because of that.”
The chief will submit his new budget by the end of this week.
There are 54 firefighters on the Spring Hill Fire Department.