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Some fire companies sit on piles of cash

   The men and women who put themselves in danger to fight fires, who climb into burning buildings to rescue the inhabitants, are heroes who deserve deep gratitude.

   That having been said, it doesn't mean that volunteer fire companies shouldn't face scrutiny of their budgets and spending.

   In Erie County, many volunteer fire companies build up substantial reserves with taxpayer money. Essentially, they bill taxpayers in advance for the replacement of vehicles and buildings, years down the road.

   That's cheaper than having to borrow the money, advocates say. But it rubs some people the wrong way. While town governments publicly discuss big expenditures before they happen, fire companies can make their decisions without public input.

   Should taxpayers have a better window on fire companies' spending?

  -- Fred O. Williams

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