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MN ranks 48th in nation for fire department funding

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DULUTH,MN-- A recent study from the the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence has ranked Minnesota at 48th in the nation for fire department funding.

The average state spends $420 per household, Minnesota spends less than half.

Rice Lake Fire chief Mark Niemi says this isn't a surprise.

"Disappointed, very disheartened. It hasn't been a secret for the last number of years that the state of Minnesota hasn't funded the fire services like they have other public service departments," he says.

A lack of funding and an increase in costs mean tough decisions have to be made, especially for volunteer departments.

Niemi says, "In greater Minnesota there are departments that are really having to make those decisions on do we replace our personal protective equipment that's been out there for 15 plus years or do we need to fix our truck." 

An increase in training requirements means more added onto the budget.

"Having those other job duties within the department are now getting put off, and we don't have the funding to be able to support. So when were making those critical decisions with our budgets, you know often times training is one of the first things to go," says Niemi.

A lack of training and using old equipment can lead to a dangerous situation.

Niemi says, "It puts not only us at risk but it puts the community at risk too." 

Tough choices that have to be made is something he says shouldn't be the case. 

"We shouldn't have to be making those decisions on which is more important," he adds.

The Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association plans to make a push at the next legislative session for more adequate funding.

Many departments look to local fundraisers to gain more money. 

Emma Quinn

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