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Helping Northeast Tennessee volunteer firefighters

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MOSHEIM, Tenn. - Volunteer firefighters risk their lives to save the lives of others, but often have to beg for the funding. So a Greene County volunteer firefighter started an non-profit organization to help how they can.

The Mosheim Volunteer Fire Department receives $5,000 and insurance costs from Greene County. But Chief Harold Williamson says running the station costs at least $26,000 a year.

"We appreciate what we get from the county but there's nowhere near what it takes to operate the fire departments," said Williamson. The chief said fuel prices alone cost $5,000-$6,000. Just one set of firefighter gear costs them $2,800.

Donations from the community and grants are what help run the volunteer departments. For the past year, so do the efforts of Alan Bohms and the Volunteer Firefighter Alliance.

"We have 20-year-old equipment and our goal is to raise enough money to buy 10-year-old equipment, and that's when I determined there's a problem here," said Bohms.

The McDonald volunteer firefighter created the non-profit organization in Spring 2014. He and his small team organizes fundraisers and produces discount cards to sell, all at no charge to the stations.

"So they get to keep 100% of the money they bring in through the fundraiser," said Bohms. He has worked with more than 33 Northeast Tennessee departments in six different counties so far, each raising hundreds or thousands of dollars.

"It may be a drop in the bucket but that's $700 we didn't have or wouldn't have had," said Williamson.

It can help pay for a broken garage door, replacing a flat tire, or new gear.

"I'm not doing this as a volunteer firefighter, I'm doing it as a homeowner. I want to make sure that my local fire department has the proper equipment they need in case my house catches on fire," said Bohms.

Starting Friday, a portion of the new $55 wheel tax in Greene County will go to the volunteer fire departments. It won't add to their county grant but ensure the departments continue to get the same amount they've been receiving.

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