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Hope Mills May Be Fighting Fires Alone After Automated Aid Agreement Ends

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HOPE MILLS — Homeowners in Hope Mills are worried they will not be protected if flames fill their homes. The small Cumberland County town could be fighting fires alone in the future.

Last week, the automated aid agreement ended between Hope Mills and four neighboring fire departments: Cumberland Road, Cotton, Pearce's Mill and Stoney Point. The end of the agreement means Hope Mills will call for backup if it is needed.

Sharon Bruno, who has lived in her neighborhood for five years, says her children matter most in her life. That is why she is concerned about their safety if a fire hits.

"If there is a fire, I want as many people there as possible," Bruno says.

Hope Mills fire chief Lee Sudia says parents like Bruno have no need to worry. He admits, in case of a fire, his men and women will not get automatic help from fire departments like Stoney Point, but that does not mean that homes and lives will be in danger.

"Our level of service, up until this moment, has been perfect and excellent. It is going to continue to be excellent," Sudia says.

Sudia has 45 firefighters on the force and enough equipment to handle 99 percent of fires at single family homes. Some say it is not an issue of manpower and tools, but of money.

Stoney Point fire chief Freddie Johnson says the town of Hope Mills ended the automated agreement with his department in an effort to save money, which leaves residents stuck in limbo.

"Why the debate over money," Bruno says. "Where is the taxpayers' money going to?"

The fire chiefs from the neighboring areas plan to meet with a lawyer Wednesday to take legal action in response to the end of the automated aid.

Sudia says the other volunteer fire departments ended the agreement.


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