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Fuel prices squeeze Police and Fire Departments

Finding ways to maintain protection
Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 21:56:21-04

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — High gas prices are more than your problem. Some police and fire departments are fighting to keep fuel prices from burning through their budgets.

If you think it’s tough paying for gas for a couple of cars, try paying the gas bill for a city-sized fleet.

Police cars drive a lot of miles. They often stay running at a crime or accident scene so the emergency lights, radios and computers don’t run down the battery.

Since March, even buying in bulk, gas prices for Nogales Police rose from $3.49 a gallon in March to $4.09 in June.

Nogales Chief Roy Bermudez says his cars burn about 4000 gallons a month. At NPD’s current charge of $4.09 per gallon, that’s a gas bill of more than $16,000 a month.

The Chief says Nogales Police are buying more fuel efficient vehicles, and telling officers not to self-dispatch—that means decide on their own to drive to a call assigned to another officer.

Chief Bermudez says, “We are strategically patrolling now in higher call areas. We're making sure that these cars are not idling when they don’t have to be, making sure that the officers turn their cars off when they're at the office or when they get their unit to a call if possible. It's not always possible.“ The Chief says one example would be a police car with a K-9 working dog. That car would be kept running to keep the dog cool and safe.

In Arivaca, the Fire District has a lot of ground to cover and it has to burn a lot of Diesel to do it. They buy in bulk, have their own tank but have a hair raising experience every time they refill it.

Chief Cody Baker says, “The last refill just to put it in plain terms was about $5000. This next one is going to be about $8,000. Most likely would be inflation that we're facing right now.”

Chief Baker says his ambulance can easily burn 20 to 25 gallons taking a patient to a Tucson Hospital. And that’s on top of inflation driving up his other costs.

He says he’ll keep finding ways to get the job done, even if fuel costs do not come back down.

“And so we try our best to mitigate it as best we can and we try to be on top of our budgets and ensure that we're still going to be able to provide that public safety because at the end of the day, emergencies don't care whether you have fuel or not. So we have to be able to meet that need.”