La Marque Volunteer Fire Department disbanding

August 26, 2010 4:57:51 PM PDT
By this time next week, there will no longer be a volunteer fire department in La Marque. The department is disbanding, but not necessarily because firefighters want to. La Marque is a coastal community that still retains its small town feel, even in its fire department. The city has a full-time contingent of firefighters, but its complemented by a small group of volunteers, including Bob Doolittle.

"It gets in your blood, the smoke gets in your blood," said Doolittle. "And I'll have been there 50 years this past March. I joined in 1960 up until now, and we're going to go on until September 1 and then we'll walk away from it because we can't seem to get on with the city."

The volunteers announced the end to a 60-year relationship earlier this week. Some blame the city manager, who we attempted to contact, but our calls have not been returned.

Others say it had to do with the firefighters' union negotiations with the city, and that volunteers sided with their paid counterparts.

Whatever the reason, it has long-time La Marque residents asking a question.

"If there's money that's tight right now, I'd see that as a measure of keeping the costs down," said La Marque resident Jacques Bell.

The volunteer firefighters made no salary, but they paid for a lot of new equipment for the fire department through donations people would voluntarily make -- a dollar a month on their water bills.

Along with the free help, that income will end as well, along with a tradition in La Marque, and for some, confidence in how much fire protection will be available.

"I just always think that the more firefighters we have, the better protection we're gonna have, like the more police we'd have, the less crime, but that's common logic," said resident Eric Kemmerer.

The impact of the loss of volunteers on firefighting operations and response is unknown because the fire chief was not available for comment either.

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