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Volunteer fire department talk surfaces in Jefferson Co.

October 23, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - An effort is under way to establish a volunteer fire department in Middleway, W.Va.

Mike Mood, who is proposing the new department, told the Jefferson County Commission last week that firefighters take as long as 30 minutes to get to a fire in the Middleway area, which can give fire plenty of time to cause major damage to a house.

A 30-minute response time is rare and the average is about 14 minutes, which is still long, Mood said.

Mood also pointed to Middleway's ISO rating between 8 and 9, "which is bad," Commission President Frances Morgan said.

ISO (Insurance Services Office) collects information on an area's fire protection efforts and the data is used to establish insurance premiums, Mood said.

An ISO rating of 1 indicates exemplary fire protection and a rating of 10 means an area's fire suppression program does not meet ISO's minimum criteria, Mood said.

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Another issue for Middleway is that the area is growing, and moderate to large homes are being built there, which can generate a large "fire load," Mood said.

There are about 90 fire calls in the area annually, Mood said.

The department also woul serve the Summit Point area, Mood said. Summit Point Motorsports Park is where antiterrorism training facilities are being built, although the track is planning to build its own private fire department, Mood said.

Mood asked the county commission for $20,000 to help pay for the department's insurance and equipment like hose, hand tools and turnout gear for firefighters.

The commissioners have not taken any action on the request, although Morgan said she believes the time has come for a fire department to serve the Middleway area, which is west of Charles Town, the county seat.

Mood said there is a "very large garage" in Middleway that is being used to store equipment for the department, but people working on the proposal are looking for a different site and a building that is more suitable for the operation.

There was a discussion during Thursday's meeting about having satellite locations of fire departments to serve outlying areas.

Mood said the problem with satellite stations is that equipment is split between the main department and the satellite station and that takes equipment further away from an area.

Another concern is that one station usually gets better equipment than the other, Mood said.

The process has started for forming the department, Mood said. Phase I is when the need for the department is assessed, and Phase II involves the creation of an organization to establish a department, Mood said.

The process is overseen by the state Fire Marshal's office.

Mood said he has served as a captain and a lieutenant for the Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co. and as a police officer in Washington, D.C.

If a fire department is established in Middleway, it would be the seventh department in the county. A sixth department, Bakerton Fire Department, was formed recently to strengthen fire protection in that area.

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