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Comprehensive fire protection plan for Washington County under way

February 15, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Kevin Lewis, director of the Washington County Division of Emergency Services.
File photo

A long-delayed comprehensive fire protection plan for Washington County, with the aim of increasing efficiency of operations while accommodating future growth, is under way, according to Kevin Lewis, director of the county’s Division of Emergency Services (DES).

“We have to look into the future,” Lewis said Friday, noting the county’s goal of ensuring that “the same programs that are being delivered in one area are being delivered across all areas.”

“It’s imperative that this is not just a DES initiative,” he said. “It’s (a Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association) initiative and it has resources from all the independent corporations.”

Dale Hill, president of the volunteer fire and rescue association, issued a letter Friday to the presidents of all the county’s member volunteer companies, requesting that each choose one representative to sit on a committee to help develop a plan for future fire service delivery.

“The county and the association developed an emergency medical response master plan that went into effect several years ago and that was to help provide EMS coverage to the county,” Hill said Friday. “The next phase after that ... is to try to come up with some type of master fire plan for the emergency services in the county.”

Refering to an emergency services study completed in 1999, Lewis said a modified portion of that study became the county’s EMS master plan in 2009 after gaining approval from the county Board of Commissioners.

Lewis said the EMS plan was to not only meet the needs of medical response and deployment in the county, but also to give the county commissioners a clear view of how funding is distributed among the independent corporations.

The same is expected to come out of the comprehensive fire plan, Lewis said.

Hill said he would like all companies to have their representatives chosen and submitted to the volunteer association by March 1, with the goal to begin meeting later next month.

“That way we can get as much input as possible and varying opinions, and hopefully develop a potential plan that will support the citizens of the community,” he said.

Likely topics of discussion for the master fire plan include dealing with limited resources, such as personnel and funding issues, as well as general operations and future apparatus, vehicle and equipment replacements, Hill said.

Potential station relocation might be part of those discussions, he added.

“That’s something that always has to be taken into consideration, especially when the county’s growing and there’s future development so I’m sure that’s going to be one of the issues,” Hill said.

Lewis said another goal of the plan would be to look at ways to reduce costs on independent companies, perhaps by identifying ways for the county to buy supplies or equipment in bulk.

Hill said the fire plan was supposed to be “off the ground at least two years ago, but it never really seemed to materialize.”

“I know that it’s something Director Lewis is looking at now and we just want to be sure that we have all the departments involved to provide their input,” he said. “... I think it’s time that we really need to try to sit down and work something out.”

Hill said some “major issues” delayed the process in establishing a fire service delivery plan, due in part to the situation involving the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co., which had been suspended indefinitely by the county because of its response failure rate.

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