By Sylvia Gonzalez
WEST ODESSA - Volunteer Fire Departments across the State of Texas on the edge of their seat, that's because a panel of five Senators wants to cut funding for these departments.
"Words can not describe how I feel about that. It's a shame," Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis, with the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department, said.
Ellis does not sugarcoat how he feels about the proposed budget cuts.
"Don't come in here, cut the leg out from under me and expect me to go do the job," Ellis said.
Ellis says it's shameful for a group of people to want to underfund departments that volunteer their time. He says too much is at stake to underfund these departments.
"People here depend on us to try to save their lives, to do the best we can. Why handicap a bunch of guys that are doing it for nothing by cutting the little bit of extra help they can get. We deserve the same amount of equipment that all the big paid departments get," Ellis said.
During the fertilizer plant explosion in West, nine of those who perished were volunteer firefighters or EMT responders, Ellis says now more than ever funding should not be cut.
"It's a bad thing to even think about cutting funding for any type of funding or grants for any volunteers," Ellis said.
Ellis tells NewsWest 9 his department is needing many new things, he says they already do most of the maintenance on the fire trucks and whatever needs to be done around the building themselves. He believes the cuts would affect his department even more.
"Most of my bunker gear, the firefighting gear is going out of date. I was intending to work on trying to get a grant to get new gear for my guys," Ellis said.
Ellis says the only way they can continue to operate the department is to continue receiving the funding they have been getting for years.
"If they hold the standards to everybody else around here, if they want us to adhere to their standards, then they need to help us with the funding," Ellis said.
There is a petition available that calls for restoring funding to volunteer fire departments.