There are many answers to that question, but the simplest and most important is that an ESD will insure that critical emergency response resources and manpower will always be there when our citizens call. Many factors are combining to make it harder and harder to provide adequate fire and EMS services through existing means. Times are changing, and we must accept and adapt.
As the VFD Boards work to develop long-range plans, they frequently struggle with how to fund the replacement of older major apparatus. Grants are becoming much more difficult to obtain, and frequently take far too long to be of any foreseeable value. Cash reserves need to be maintained to insure continued operation, and there is simply no way (short of substantial debt) to buy what is needed.
All of the local VFD’s have done an outstanding job for decades, but their ability to respond – indeed their very existence – depend 100% on the generosity of an ever-smaller group of caring, dedicated folks. This includes everyone who donates so generously to fundraising efforts, the groups who work so hard organizing and executing those fundraisers, and (of course) the volunteers who routinely leave the safety and comfort of their homes to provide medical care, fight fires, train, etc.
It is a fact that, despite everyone’s best efforts, all of the VFD’s financial support consistently comes from only about 25% of those who receive the services. And as demographics change, there is every indication that number will diminish. Most new residents are coming from areas where taxes already pay for emergency services, and many of them simply assume that must be the case here as well.
Those same demographics are also beginning to affect the local manpower situation, both in fundraising and operations. As the average age of VFD membership climbs higher, fewer and fewer new volunteers are showing up. And the ones who do often spend far more man-hours on fundraising than they do on training and responding combined.
Creating an ESD does not mean that any of our Volunteer Fire Departments will go away. Far from it. Instead, the ESD will be able to assume the financial burden, and supplement the volunteers as necessary. This will allow the VFD’s to do what is most important and what they do best – respond, train, and be there when they are called.