Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
In a time when volunteer firefighters are harder to find than ever, one Macon County fire department is petitioning a district change to allow them to operate with fewer members on the roster.
“Mountain Valley Fire Department requested their substation on Coon Creek Road be reclassified from a substation to a satellite station,” said Macon County Emergency Services Director Warren Cabe. “A substation allows for district extension from the building location (five or six miles) and any insurance reductions for the five- mile district will follow into the extended area if the department has a protection class less than a class 9. The substation requires an engine and tanker to be in the building and requires eight additional people on the roster to bring the total required to 28.”
Mountain Valley’s request will allow the existing sub-station to serve as a satellite station and change the classification for the department.
“The main difference between the two classifications is that the requirements of a sub-station are more stringent than that of a satellite station, allowing the satellite station to have fewer people on the roster,” said Cabe.
A satellite station does not allow for extension of the district and has no mandated equipment requirements but also has no additional personnel requirements (20 on roster). It is for functionality purposes for the fire department.
Insurance rates are determined based on classification of fire departments, but with the change, Cabe doesn’t expect the department’s classification to change.
“There is about half of a mile that shows up as a road on the map, but it is not what you and I would classify as a road,” said Cabe. “That would go to protection class 10, which technically means that it’s outside of the fire protection area. However, there are no structures there, and there are no plans for any structures there.”
The map change in the district will not affect the overall coverage area for Macon County residents. “We had to make changes to the map not in the overall coverage area, which will stay the same, but to what areas within the service area will either be in a five-mile district or a six-mile district,” explained Cabe. “Again, not important for Mountain Valley as their rating is a class nine throughout their district (five or six mile).
If the Wildflower subdivision had been developed as intended, Mountain Valley would be responsible for the homes that would have been located there. “We did have approximately half mile of a road in what was the Wildflower Development that is now considered outside a six-mile district and as such would be considered a class 10 or “unprotected area” according to OSFM [Office of the State Fire Marshal], but the road is almost nonexistent and there are no structures there and no apparent plans for any structures so for now we left it in their service district area,” explained Cabe.
When recently inspected, Mountain Valley was cited for not having enough roster members. “Mountain Valley had 26 people on their roster and this change will now result in them having more than enough people on their roster to successfully pass a class nine inspection and the service will continue to be provided by the same people with the same equipment in the same area,” said Cabe.
“As you know, there’s been an ongoing problem with a lack of volunteers,” said Mountain Valley Fire Chief Nick McCall. “They’re a dying breed in this county, and all over the United States. When we got back out there in that one spot (on the map) there’s nothing there, and if something does get brought up, we can work together with the other fire departments that are close, we can let them have that. I do approve the map that we have presented.”
The map will now be submitted to the N.C. OSFM for final approval.