Suzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nMembers of the Bartow-Frank-Durbin fire and rescue squad, Cass volunteer fire department, Pocahontas County fire board and Pocahontas County EMS authority met at the Green Bank Observatory last Thursday to discuss fire coverage areas for that part of the county.\r\n\r\nRumors swirled in northern Pocahontas County after the Cass Fire Department began construction on a building at the Cass intersection. The meeting was held, in part, to address some of those rumors, disputes about coverage areas, as well as to clarify why the State Fire Marshal\u2019s office halted construction.\r\n\r\nThe panel seated to answer questions consisted of county commissioner David McLaughlin, EMS board member Don McNeel, BFD chief and president Buster Varner, state fire marshal representative Bradley Scott, BFD deputy chief Dennis Egan, fire board member Jamie Kellison and Cass VFD member John Rebinski.\r\n\r\nVarner explained that in 2015, Scott met with all the county\u2019s fire chiefs to discuss coverage areas for each fire station. There were a couple of disputes concerning \u201cfire lines,\u201d and Scott told the chiefs to fix the lines themselves or the fire marshal\u2019s office would do it for them.\r\n\r\nThe disputes were not settled, so Scott came back to the county and, with the assistance of 911 director Michael O\u2019Brien, redrew the fire lines.\r\n\r\n\u201cI was here for about a week,\u201d Scott said. \u201cI came in and I took a year\u2019s worth of data from all the fire departments \u2013\u00a0this had nothing to do with ambulance calls \u2013\u00a0this had to do with fire calls. Then, I drove the areas and that\u2019s where we came up with the new lines.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe lines were put into effect December 2015 and O\u2019Brien developed a new map which was shared with the fire marshal\u2019s office and each of the fire departments.\r\n\r\nThe new lines extended BFD\u2019s coverage area down to Seneca State Forest, which was previously covered by Cass. This means that if a fire or wreck occurs in Dunmore, the first station to be called to the scene is BFD. If assistance is needed, Cass and other stations will be called accordingly.\r\n\r\nRebinski said the Cass department has been trying for nearly 15 years to find land where they could build a substation, much like BFD\u2019s substation in Green Bank. He said the goal was to build the substation in Dunmore, but land was not available. When the land at the Cass intersection went up for sale, the department bought it and made plans to build the substation there.\r\n\r\nWhile the land was purchased when it was still in the Cass coverage area, construction began after the lines were changed and the property had been designated to fall into the BFD\u2019s response area.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey started building the building and we [the fire marshal\u2019s office] got a complaint from the BFD, so we had to act on it,\u201d Scott said. \u201cThe Monday after Thanksgiving, the court order was delivered to stop work on the building.\u201d\r\n\r\nBFD received some ridicule for contacting the fire marshal\u2019s office about the building, but as Egan said, the complaint was filed because the building is too close to the Green Bank station, which is 2.2 miles from the Cass intersection.\r\n\r\nAccording to the state fire marshal\u2019s office, fire stations and substations should be at least five miles apart.\r\n\r\n\u201cI think the real issue that we\u2019re concerned with, that I\u2019m concerned with, is the duplication of facilities,\u201d Egan said. \u201cThat\u2019s why I think this station is too close to ours, mostly because of the duplication of facilities, not because of where everybody is that has to respond. Some days it\u2019s good, some days, it\u2019s bad. Some days Cass has to go to Durbin and we all work together for that.\r\n\r\n\u201cTwo and a half miles is a duplication of facilities, and I don\u2019t think it\u2019s a good use of the resources that we have,\u201d Egan continued. \u201cThat\u2019s why we\u2019re fighting this. It isn\u2019t because we\u2019re trying to stop Cass from doing a better job or we\u2019re trying to hold on to our area. I think Christine [Rebinski] is right, if it was further down the road, I think we could come to some kind of accommodations. It\u2019s like they\u2019re in our pocket.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhen the dispute became public, many members of the community were angered because they make annual donations to the Cass department and saw the building as a waste of money.\r\n\r\nRebinski explained that the money used for the building was not from donations, but the funds received from ambulance runs.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe wanted to do it because we have several members in the Dunmore area,\u201d Rebinski said. \u201cIt was just a project we had planned for years. The money is coming from all those years of doing ambulance runs and saving up, knowing we wanted to do that project. We didn\u2019t just get up one day and say \u2018well, we\u2019re going to put up this fire station here.\u2019 We\u2019ve been planning this for a very long time.\u201d\r\n\r\nScott said that while the building was planned, the fire marshal\u2019s office did not receive any plans to review and said if the building was to house a fire truck and ambulance, which it initially was to do, it needed to have both a sprinkler and a fire alarm system.\r\n\r\nThe substation was intended to house a fire truck and an ambulance, but now, John Rebinski said Cass plans to finish the building and use it for storage.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur department is done fighting over all this,\u201d he said. \u201cWe don\u2019t want to fight. We are working now to get it so we can use it for other equipment that aren\u2019t ambulances and fire trucks that are sitting outside of our building. We\u2019re going to use it as basically a storage area. That\u2019s where we are at now.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe community was invited to attend the meeting and to bring any questions they had concerning fire and ambulance coverage. The discussion lasted for nearly two hours.