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A Fire Department In Jeopardy

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A small southwest Minnesota fire department that has served the community for nearly 130 years may be no more. City leaders sent residents of Avoca which is located north of Worthington letters. They said if Avoca Fire and Rescue doesn’t find more volunteers, the rural towns fire department might be dissolved.

For the town of Avoca, population 147, the fire department has played a key role throughout its history.

“There's been a couple of major fires that have ravaged through the town, and our fire department has been there to save lives and keep people going,” said Justine Wettschreck, a first responder with Avoca Fire and Rescue.

But the department is in jeopardy.

“Well we are very short staffed and we need people to volunteer for our fire department,” said Avoca Fire and Rescue Chief Pete Luttrell.

For the small department, still working out of the original fire hall built decades ago, it isn’t money or a lack of resources that is causing the possible dissolvement. Fire officials said it’s people moving away, retiring and quitting.
As of now there are only three fire fighters and four first responders. Making it difficult and dangerous for those who go out to battle a blaze.
“So we have enough if we get called out we can fight the fire safely,” said Luttrell.
But the department dissolving will not only mean no fire fighters just minutes away to battle a blaze, it also means home owner insurance rates could go up.

With no fire department the town’s fire rating will go down. Insurance agents with Farmers Insurance Company in Avoca said in home insurance policies there is a protection class that covers homes in case of a fire. With no near fire department insurance agents said some home and businesses’ insurance rates could raise $200 to $400 per year.

But the possible hike on residents’ insurance isn’t the first worry that comes to fire officials minds’, it’s their safety.

“If there is a fire in our town, it could take other cities time to get here. We are already here,” Luttrell said.

Making it incredibly important for those who live five minutes away from the town to become a protector of the community and keep a tradition going.

“It's nice to be a part of your community. And it's nice to be able to do something for your community,” said Wettschreck. “The comradery between the fire department is hard to beat.”

Avoca Fire and Rescue is looking for ten volunteers by April 1. Fire officials said they are looking into other options to try and stop the dissolvement of the department.

If they can’t, the northern part of Avoca will be covered by Slayton’s fire department, and the southern part will be covered by Fulda.
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