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Group proposes paid firefighting force in Jefferson Co.

February 03, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A formal proposal to start a paid firefighting service in the county was presented Thursday by county fire officials to the Jefferson County Commission.

The Jefferson County Fire and Rescue Association proposed a paid firefighter force that would assign three paid firefighters to each of the county's five volunteer fire companies.

The plan is designed to assist volunteer firefighters with taking calls.

Two of the paid firefighters would work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., when volunteers are least likely to be available to respond to calls, according to the proposal.

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The third person would be needed to cover for leave for the other two firefighters, the proposal said.

It is estimated that salaries and wages would cost $522,460 and after other expenses like equipment are added, the annual cost of the force would be $824,260, the proposal said.

Commission members briefly discussed the proposal and said they would probably have a work session to further study the plan. Commission members talked about possibly implementing a fire fee to pay for the service.

County officials have talked about blending the county's volunteer fire departments with a paid fire service since volunteer fire companies have had trouble getting enough volunteers to staff the departments.

Eight to 10 years ago, it was typical for any of the county's volunteer departments to have five to 10 volunteers show up for a call, officials said.

Now the number of volunteers responding for calls is about three to five per station, officials said two years ago.

Many employers will not allow their workers to leave the workplace to respond to calls, Thursday's proposal said.

"There is definitely a need in the county to head in this direction," said fire and rescue association member Pete Kelley, who made the proposal with fellow association member Jay Watson.

The county's fire and rescue association created a committee to study paid fire service and it worked for 11 months on the plan, the proposal said.

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