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Alarm sounded over Wake firefighter shortage

Posted May 12, 2008

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— Wake County needs to hire more than 200 firefighters in the next three years to properly staff dozens of area fire stations, a panel said Monday.

The county Fire Commission asked the Board of Commissioners to spend more than $7.6 million to hire the firefighters, saying only three of 37 fire stations serving unincorporated areas of the county are staffed by at least four firefighters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The fire service in its present configuration cannot keep up with (population) growth and demands for service delivery," Fairview Rural Fire Chief Edward Brinson said.

Most county fire stations are staffed by part-time and volunteer firefighters, but the Fire Commission said they number of volunteer firefighters has dropped by 24 percent in the past decade, from almost 800 to fewer than 600.

In addition, relying on volunteers has resulted in slower response times, the commission said.

"(Using volunteers) creates a significant delay in our response time from the time we get call to arrive on the scene," Brinson said.

Kevin Radford, a part-time firefighter for the Swift Creek Fire Department, also works full-time for the Raleigh Fire Department and volunteers in Garner. He said many of his part-time colleagues at Swift Creek also perform multiple firefighting roles across the county.

The Fire Commission cited the move to full-time staff at Garner Fire Station No. 2 as proof that hiring more firefighters could improve response times. Responses were cut from an average of about 12 minutes in 2005 to less than nine minutes last year, the commission said.

"All throughout Wake County, people pay the same amount of tax. It's not fair for some areas to have 24-hour coverage and some don't," Radford said.

Commissioner Lindy Brown said she supports increasing fire service across the county but said raising taxes to pay for more firefighters would be a tough sell.

"The money is not there," Brown said. "I would think the citizens of Wake County would put that in perspective. Money is needed, (and) we've got to invest in our firefighters."


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  • jcmedfor May 14, 2008

    "Then why do I get a call from an offshore company with an Indian on the other end who is saying he is with the local fire department soliciting money for a truck upgrade?"

    This is a scam, using the fire service as a means to get citizens to give them their hard earned money.

    So what is the Fire Commission doing to retain volunteer firefighters? If the county hires 200 full-time firefighters and nothing is done to improve retention we will not be any better off. We will have 200 firefighters, not the 600 that we have in the county right now! The county fire service will still be dependent upon the volunteer fire fighter, the question is will they be there?

    Without volunteers the first truck will be there, but what about the second, or third?

    "One of the primary roles of the Fire Commission is to develop and implement firefighter and volunteer incentive, retention and recruitment programs."

    Why is this not mentioned in their plan for the county?

  • TheAdmiral May 13, 2008

    "One of the primary roles of the Fire Commission is to develop and implement firefighter and volunteer incentive, retention and recruitment programs"

    Then why do I get a call from an offshore company with an Indian on the other end who is saying he is with the local fire department soliciting money for a truck upgrade?

  • TheAdmiral May 13, 2008

    TechRescue -

    "I'm sure you can "take care of yourself". However, if you can say that you have never utilized emergency services for you or your family in your entire life, then my hat is off to you - for either being one in a million, or for being willing to tell a bald-faced lie to make a point."

    I can not believe that you think a MAJORITY of the people have been in the back of a meat wagon or have needed a fire engine. Just where in the hell do you get your numbers to be calling someone a liar?

    I have never used or needed a meat wagon or a fire department. In fact when a car flipped over in my back yard - all of the triage was done before the wagon got there - by me. And guess what? I haven't been in a hospital for anything other than a sprained ankle - and the EMT was my mother.

    So I don't want to hear this omnipotent self-important trash about people lying about never needing them. You are in a different cloud if you believe otherwise.

  • whatelseisnew May 13, 2008


    Nope, I have had the good fortune to not have to call 911 for anything. Now I have not said that Firefighters should not be available to everyone that wants their support; obviously most folks want the emergency services that are provided. I also stated in a previous post if more paid staff are needed I am perfectly happy to pay more tax if that is required. Believe me that is saying something because there is almost nothing else for which I would be willing to pay additional tax dollars. The only thing the county does with the funding that I do not like is, they do not return dollar for dollar what is collected from each fire district. I think at a minimum each district should get back 90 percent of what is collected, and then perhaps the other 10 can go to other areas of the county that might be behind on the level of available service.

  • TheAdmiral May 13, 2008

    DMJ -

    "Whatelseisnew-Let's say during a thunderstorm in the middle of the night your house gets struck by lightning. You get trapped in your bedroom. Are you going to turn down help by the firefighters because, at this point in your life, you've never needed help from them before? "

    Pardon me, but that is the lamest argument that I have seen here so far. You make it look that as soon as the house is struck that there is someone there to kick the door down.

    Try again with something more realistic there sport. I have never seen a fire engine out in front of a house "About to be struck" by lightening.

  • TheAdmiral May 13, 2008

    "You may have insurance to replace your house should it burn down, but there is NO INSURANCE that will bring back your loved one should they go into cardiac arrest or perish in that fire that is burning down your house."

    Publicsafety1 - There is nothing that says you can guarantee that that person will be saved when you get there either. Out of the 30 house fires that have been reported here, The Superman with the Fire Department badge did not save everyone in the house.

    So excuse me if you portray yourself as the next messiah and you can save people by just arriving at the scene.

  • TheAdmiral May 13, 2008

    Ya know - whatelseisnew is right. There is very rarely a time that I can remember in my life that a fire fighter was able to save a structure or stop the damages. Since for the most part water damage is one of the reasons insurance claims are up - I can see why there is not a need to save the structure, but save the neighborhood.

    Since Fuquay has their homes 6 feet apart now - When one goes up all of them will go up. Since you can't put a wall of water through a 6 foot hole that is 40 feet tall - it wouldn't matter if the FD was there or not.

    But never in the history have I ever seen a FD "Save" a house without several thousands of dollars in insurance claims. In 99% of the cases, they tear down the remains of the house and re-build it from the ground up. So what are we REALLY saving here?

  • chfdcpt May 13, 2008

    Whatelseisnew; I understand what you mean about collecting the fire tax. In Orange and Alamance Counties, the volunteer fire departments set their tax rates, not the county commissioners.

    The way the have it here in Wake is one rate for anyone that lives outside of the corporate limits.

  • IrishWhiskey May 13, 2008

    From my knowledge of the County Fire Service, it seems that more individuals are needed for the "major" calls, i.e. house fires, car accidents, etc. than just four paid staff members? How does the County plan to maintain the existing volunteers by adding paid staff members? I am not seeing this plan listed in the budget. If we have individuals willing to give of their time, should we not first implement a plan to maintain their interest?

    I look forward to possible answers to the above questions. This news article opens up many questions in my mind, but I think that I will stop with this for the time being. As a Wake County citizen and taxpayer, I am interested to learn more from those with the knowledge.

  • IrishWhiskey May 13, 2008

    The information shared in this article tends to make me believe that our Wake County Fire Protection is deteriorating without putting in place paid personnel. If that be the case, why have we not seen any news media related to the needs of those in our County not being met? Where are the citizens who are unhappy with the current service? Reference to Garner Fire Department's improvement in response times in the article ... why were Garner's reponse times initially poor? Is that because attention was not given to retention and recruitment of volunteers?

    Has anyone questioned what type of Volunteer rosters and involvement the County Fire Departments have at this time? Are there certain departments which are meeting the needs with volunteers better than others? What happens when paid personnel are put into place?