Volusia Co. firefighters propose fees to battle $2 million deficit

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DELAND, Fla. —

In Volusia County, firefighters are battling more than just flames.

They're pushing the county to change how people pay for fire services and say it's an issue of public safety.

A fire station in DeLand is one of a handful that could be closed if Volusia County leaders can't find another $2 million to fund fire services.

One option is to close certain fire stations at night to save money.

"If we do that, we've taken a couple steps forward. We'll be taking three steps back," resident Joel Baker said.

The local firefighters union suggested another option to the county council Thursday: fire fees.

The county currently uses property tax revenue to pay for fire services, and that revenue has decreased substantially.

The firefighters union said if fire stations had to close overnight, the county would be taking resources away from residents when they need them the most.

Jeff Marris with the Volusia County Professional Firefighters Association is leading the effort to push fire fees.

"It's not that we're needed every minute of every day, but it's when we're needed, if we're not there; who is going to take care of that situation if we're not there?" Marris said.

Marris said fees are better than taxes because everyone, even renters, would pay their share, not just property owners.

Joel Baker, a DeLand resident and a volunteer firefighter, agrees.

"I think that the critical thing and the most feasible to me is to have a fire fee. That would resolve the situation," Baker said.

The county has not made a decision, but it will begin looking at fire fees to see if they are the next-best option.