(KMOV) -- The Kinloch Fire Department says that a device, put on their electric meter to limit how much power they use, has left them in the dark - at times.
Kinloch, a small fire department in north county, has struggled to pay its electric bill. Last month, Kinloch says their tab topped $3,000.
February 22nd, Ameren Missouri installed a device to limit how much power the fire house can use. Ameren said it was the alternative to shutting off power completely.
The device is supposed to allow the department to run radios, phones, the fire house door, and some lights. Firefighters say, over the weekend, the device began malfunctioning.
Mike Schroeder, a battalion chief, said firefighters had to use a generator in order to have enough power to open and close the fire house's garage door and answer emergency calls.
"We gotta start our truck, start our generator on the truck, open the door, pull out, close the door, unplug it, turn your generator off and then go. If you've got somebody having cardiac arrest, that's three minutes that they're down," said Schroeder.
An Ameren Missouri spokeswoman told News4 that someone worked on the device Thursday afternoon. Ameren said it was working with Kinloch's fire department to keep the power on. Though the spokesperson said she could not go into detail because of privacy concerns.
Schroeder said the department sent $1,000 to the power company last month. He says the department is broke because of a dwindling tax base. Kinloch is down to just a few hundred residents.
The department was once a paid department. Now, around 30 firefighters volunteer to staff the fire house. The fire chief is the only paid position.
With the limiting device in place, firefighters don't have enough power to run the furnace, stove, or hot water heater.
Schroeder said the department is working to pay it's bills, but added that the power company has worked with the department in the past. He said Ameren has taken a harder line in recent months.
An Ameren spokeswomen said the power company was consistent in how it handled non-payment, but she said she couldn't not say whether the power company has installed a limiting device at the fire house before.