Fire departments address code issues, town requests
Providence Fire Department wouldn’t have needed adjustments to its building if the town of Weddington hadn’t asked for volunteers to sleep there overnight.
Until the town discontinued the practice of funding overnight firefighters, the station had been out of compliance with the county’s fire code. The question comes then, how many other departments find themselves in a similar situation? According to the county fire marshal’s office, Providence is one of two departments currently facing compliance issues with the fire code.
“The only other department in the county that I am aware of that sleeps personnel and that is not sprinkled is Stallings VFD,” County Fire Marshal Neal Speer said.
All other departments are up to code, Speer said, as far as his office is concerned. And as long as Stallings takes steps to address the issue, volunteers can continue to sleep at the station.
“We are in the process of remodeling our current station as we speak,” Stallings Fire Department Chief Bryan Kindley said. Recognizing the problem, the Stallings department took the initiative and has an architect currently working on plans to upgrade the facility.
As for Providence, Speer said since the town terminated funding for the overnight firemen, their issue with the fire code goes away.
“With personnel no longer sleeping in the facility, there will be no need for upgrades to the building,” Speer said.
In 2008, the Weddington town council agreed to pay for three firefighters to stay overnight, for a quick response time to local fires. The building has been out of compliance since then, as it doesn’t have a sprinkler system, a fire wall or a staircase to the sleeping quarters that have been used. By not agreeing to fund the renovations, the town basically canceled that arrangement to house three firefighters overnight.
Addressing compliance with the fire code was something left out of the county’s fire study, completed in 2010. The document looked at needed repairs, made recommendations for closings and mergers, but failed to examine if departments were in compliance with the code.
In the study, several stations needed repairs or replacement, highlighting Wesley Chapel, Fairview and Bakers as three departments that need a new station. Since then, Wesley Chapel has started construction on their new station, while Bakers remains a question mark.
The study calls for merging Bakers into the Stallings Fire Department. Such a merger also might require a new, larger station at a different location, as Bakers personnel would have to be able to respond to calls for a certain segment of the Stallings district.The study didn’t dictate how the merged fire district should be re-aligned or where to place the new station.
With no direction as to how that would move forward, Kindley said there’s been no discussions between the two departments about a potential merger. Stallings meanwhile will move forward, keeping the same fire tax rate from last year and breaking even despite the cost of the station’s repairs, at 4.2 cents per $100 of assessed property.
The same questions apply to the recommended merger of Providence with the Wesley Chapel department. The study didn’t give an idea of how that merger would affect the current Providence station on Hemby Road, leaving it up to the two departments to sit down and negotiate what would happen.
Weddington mayor Nancy Anderson said she hopes to be at the next meeting of the Providence Board of Directors, along with other council members, in hopes of hearing from the community and determining how to move forward with overnight fire coverage and the potential merger.
“When I look at this merger, it’s a doable thing,” Anderson said. In the meantime, she wondered if the council might be willing to pay Wesley Chapel volunteers to sleep in their station and respond to Weddington calls.
“This thing is complicated, but we need to find an answer,” Anderson