WINNSBORO — Fairfield County Council approved seven purchases for fire service during their most recent meeting on Feb. 10. Prior to those votes, Fire Commission member Moses Bell from the Southeastern Fire Department spoke about fire service during the public comments section.
Bell believes decisions and purchases made regarding fire service is done haphazardly.
“Our fire department has less water capacity than any fire department in the county and we can’t even get an almost new tanker for 1,500 gallons or more,” he said.
The Southeastern Fire Department, located at the lower end of the county, is currently using an old EMS truck that was set for salvage before it was obtained. Bell stated that other fire departments receive new trucks without the Fire Commission even being aware of the purchases. He asked council to review the amount of money and equipment that goes to each fire department.
“Fairfield County Council removed the responsibility and oversight of the Fire Commission and that decision has produced chaos and favoritism,” Bell noted.
He advised council of a firefighter that has not received his/her incentive halfway through the month of February.
“It is very sad that the Southeastern Fire Department has to come before county council to ask for resources and fairness for our fire department,” Bell said. “If we say nothing we get nothing however we have decided that our community is off the same value as other communities.”
Following an earlier finance committee meeting regarding fire service, Fairfield County interim county administrator Milton Pope made the following seven recommendations to council:
The last replacement of tires came in 2007 and safety standards suggest that tires be replaced every seven years. Half of the funds of $40,000 are budgeted in the 2013-2014 budget, with the other half being requested by fire marshal Tony Hill. Council unanimously approved the action.
Training room expansion
A current classroom (14 feet by 28 feet) is accommodating 20 students or more. Pope noted that expansion would keep students from being in a tight space.
“We are requesting to make an additional space for more room for more hands on training at cost of approximately $18,000,” he said.
The expanded training room will be stretched to 20 feet by 28 feet. Council unanimously approved the action without any discussion.
Replacement fire truck
Pope advised council that the committee is suggesting the purchase of a new pumper for the Mitford Fire Department. The new pumper will be an additional pumper in the station, with the existing pumper will become a service truck. At a cost of $300,000, the funds were approved in the budget.
“More than likely those funds will be encumbered for the purchase of the truck because based upon the time it was order and when the truck comes in, we will more than likely be in the new fiscal year,” Pope added.
The new fire truck was unanimously approved by council.
A 1983 pickup truck, with a blown engine, was being used as a brush truck. Needed to put the old brush truck back in service, the funds for the new truck were approved in the 2013-2014 budget. Pope stated that the cost of the new truck was $36,343, which is based upon the state contract price. The unanimous motion to purchase the truck was put forth by county council vice chairman Dwayne Perry.
Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson noted that the equipment would be taken of the old brush truck and place it onto the new truck, so that extra funds weren’t expended.
Hill explained that the new truck would be a F-354. The new truck will also be received by the Mitford Fire Department.
“It wasn’t going to be that way,” Hill noted. “But when that truck blew its engine, they haven’t had a brush-truck out there and it is needed for that area.”
Fire suppression foam
Pope said that the finance committee recommended the purchase of fire suppression foam for the entire fire service. Foam is needed when water is ineffective to suppress a fire.
“(Foam is needed) Especially in some areas of the county and some trucks to not have a sufficient amount of water on the truck,” Pope stated.
The foam’s shelf-life is over 25 years and has not been purchased in the past seven years. Pope informed council that foam can have a $20,000 fiscal impact. Because Hill asked to purchase the foam with the best shelf-life, Pope said the county would check on pricing and self-life to ensure the best purchase and product possible.
Council unanimously approved the purchase.
Pope advised council that the finance committee recommended the purchase of 1.6 acres of land for a future site-relocation of the Ridgeway Fire Department. The existing fire department sits roughly four feet off Highway 21, which poses a safety risk according to Pope.
“There is a safety factor entering and exiting this building with large apparatus,” he noted. “Additionally, there is no room for training or meetings.”
Pope recommended approval, with condition to allow the administrator to negotiate and bring a contract back for council’s consideration. Perry expressed concern regarding the location of the Ridgeway Fire Department.
“We’ve talked about his location since I’ve been on council,” he explained. “They have to have a smaller truck for that location and don’t have the proper turnaround areas. There is also just a danger going around that curve. I think it behooves us to try and find another location for that site.”
Pope’s proposal to bring back a recommended price for a piece of property was unanimously approved. After council’s consideration of the proposed property, it would still have to go through three readings and a public hearing.
Rescue training facility
The final request recommended by the finance committee was too construct a burn room and search/rescue training facility to give volunteer firefighters the opportunity to train in an environment which they will be responding in.
“This facility would be an asset not only to fire service, but to emergency services as well,” Pope advised.
The funds for the facility’s construction are appropriated in the 2013-2014 budget, however other county projects had exceeded according to priorities. Pope noted that the $35,000 would be rolled over and some of the work would be accomplished in-house.
Fairfield County’s fire service is almost 100-percent staffed by volunteers.
“We feel as though this (facility) will certainly be an enhancement to our folks to be able to have the necessary training they need where they don’t have to get slots at the fire training academy,” Pope explained.
Robinson was one of the unanimous votes to approve the facility’s construction and believes it will be an asset to the county’s fire service.
“It is my understanding that more training has been required in the last couple of years than has ever been required of these guys and gals who go out and volunteer their service,” she stated. “So anything that we can do without having to expend money by sending them to the academy, I think we’ll be better off.”