Diesel prices in Montana are nearing $6 a gallon and are expected to continue to increase throughout the summer. Volunteer fire departments are starting now to plan for what could be their most expensive summer yet.
Both Vaughn and Cascade VFD admit being nervous about gas prices.
“When you are paying six dollars a gallon for diesel and most trucks are diesel, that is going to take a huge chunk out of our budget, ” said Ken Hanks, assistant chief for Vaughn. “We were able to bump up our fuel budget but we were counting on two or three dollars a gallon, not double.”
Eric Tilleman of Cascade VFD said, “We do some fundraising and that typically gives us around $14,000. But that may not even cover the gas bill alone this year. Last year we were sitting probably eight to $9000 in fuels and we know that the fuel costs are probably going to double this year from last year.”
Most large engines run on 100-gallon tanks, and at $6 a gallon, the costs add up quickly.
“Normally we are filling up maybe 1-2 a week,” Tilleman said of last summer's fire season.
“You also have to remember that as we are fighting the fires our trucks are still running so we’re still burning gas, it's not just about getting to and from the fire,” said Hanks.
And to offset some of the costs, departments are doing their best to plan cuts in other departments.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can make our equipment and our uniforms work for just a couple more years in order to free up some money for our fuel budget,” said Tilleman.