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Petersburg firefighters march, warn citizens of ‘perilous situation’ amid budget drama

PETERSBURG, Va. -- On Thursday, a day after news that an invoice for firefighter equipment was unpaid, Petersburg firefighters assembled and held a press conference.

At least two dozen current and retired firefighters marched to a press conference and asked for funding.

Though the Petersburg city manager emphasized previously that "there is no need to worry about the safety of the city," firefighters are nervous about the future.

The men gathered at the Petersburg Library and walked in solidarity down Market Street.

International Association of Fire Fighters District Vice-President Andrew Pantelis said the group met to "alert the citizens and business owners of Petersburg about the perilous situation facing the city, for some time."

According to a letter obtained by CBS 6, the city of Petersburg owes $32,843 to Blue Ridge Rescue Suppliers for protective gear that includes turnout pants, turnout coats, helmets, and boots.

Pantelis said the city's newest fire station and its 17 fire fighters are also on the chopping block as firefighters battle to keep their community safe.

"With all factors combined, the fire department’s resources are plunging to historic lows," he said. "Thus endangering the public and the firefighters who serve this community daily.

On Wednesday, CBS 6 pressed acting City Manager Dironna Moore Belton about the concerns.

The city manager said the bill would be resolved, quickly.

"Again, the safety of the city... There is no need to worry about the safety of the city," Moore replied.

Financially, the city is in bad shape. There are federal and state investigations underway. There are looming bond disasters that could literally bankrupt the city.

Already, cleaning supplies to the  firefighter stations have been cut.

Randus Ayres at Classic Barbershop is collecting cleaning supplies for the four fire stations, because the city is no longer paying for them.

“We got water, we got detergent, toilet paper, toilet tissue, bleach, pretty much the cleaning agents they need to keep the Fire Department Clean and also themselves,” Ayres said.