Local News

Chapel Hill Fire Department Faces Staffing Crisis

Posted March 31, 2003

— The Chapel Hill Fire Department is facing a staffing crisis. The department says it is short three to six firefighters on every call.

Bill Moffitt remembers the night he almost became homeless.

"It was like a jet had taken off. There were flames flying 4 feet in the air," Moffitt said. "We lived in this house for 49 years. We would've hated to have lost it."

The Chapel Hill Fire Department responded within minutes and successfully snuffed out the blaze.

"We were extremely lucky. It's good to have this kind of protection in Chapel Hill," Moffitt said.

However, Fire Chief Dan Jones said it could have very easily been a different outcome.

"We don't need more firetrucks or fire stations. We need more firefighters to respond to calls," Jones said.

Jones said on most nights, the Chapel Hill Fire Department is stretched to the limit.

"We commit everything we have and then we rely on other communities to cover the town," Jones said. "Chapel Hill has become just too dense and complicated to let that happen."

Jones is urging the Town Council to hire 18 more firefighters.

"You reach a breaking point, and it becomes the point when you have to grow again," Jones said.

Right now, the mayor and the Town Council are figuring up next year's budget to see if they can even afford to hire 18 more firefigthers. They say they have several agencies competing for the same dollars. They should know by the end of May.

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