Dear Fellow Citizens and Residents of MVFD First Response Area:
On Thursday, January 26, at 4:07 p.m., tones sounded at Marlinton Fire Department – Station 1 – for a structure fire in the Brush Country. Eleven minutes later, seven personnel and two trucks were on scene. In two more minutes three more trucks and seven additional personnel were on scene. Soon afterward, MFD was backed up with assets from Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department. Because of this quick response, the house and three of the family’s dogs that were inside were saved. Also, in this case, the Town of Marlinton knew that a fire hydrant was in near proximity to the residence. So, the Marlinton Water Plant personnel were notified, as well. One operator continued to pump water from the plant while a second operator went to the Brush Country Pump Station to send water on to the Brush Country Tank, which provides water to the available hydrant. All outcomes may not be as successful as this particular response, but, one thing is sure – this type of success depends upon properly trained and equipped personnel. Again, we are reminded how we depend on our fire companies to spring into action at the sound of a tone.
Can they depend on us?
To begin: After a devastating fire in 1906 the Town of Marlinton formed three hose companies. The first motorized pumper was purchased in 1932 at a cost of $1,400. The unit was housed in the old Marlinton Electric building at a cost of four dollars a month.
In 1942 a delegation from Campbelltown requested fire department service to their town. About the same time a limit of 15 miles was placed on responding to out-of-town fires.
In 1955, an ambulance and rescue squad was added. Two-way radios came in 1964. In 1974, the town received two trucks from a government program through the County EMS – one of them was converted to a tanker for out-of-town fires.
Tanker #21 was purchased new after the 1985 flood. Then, the department consisted of 45 personnel with more than 500 years of service.
In the early days, you worked with what you had, and experience – rather than training – happened while you were fighting fire.
Those days are gone forever.
Training is now a requirement, re-training is on-going, and Workers Compensation is required for each member.
Equipment is expensive.
Many items such as air packs and even service uniforms have mandated expiration dates.
Consequently, local volunteer fire departments all around our state are already in or are headed toward financial woes that threaten their continued operation(s). The Marlinton Fire Department is no different in this respect. The Town wants to make sure our fire department is able to continue to serve and to respond in the same professional manner we have come to expect.
Ask any community club or civic organization if they need volunteers and all will say “yes.”
Think about our fire companies. Being a volunteer fireman takes a tremendous commitment. Currently, the 30 members of the MFD are responding to all needs as they arise. To that end, the Town is committed to doing all it can to train and equip these firemen for their own safety and for completion of safe successful responses.
The leadership in the fire department has shed light on their problem. Those of us who depend on fire services must understand “their problem is our problem, too!”
If we are community-minded, if we are committed to doing our part to keep our emergency services strong and equipped to do the job that we expect them to do, then we should not expect them to put themselves on the line with one hand tied behind their back.
Think about it: As we travel, we take for granted that, if something happens, there is a system in place that we can depend on. Surely, we want to do our part where we live. All fire services are provided on our behalf. At any time, their response may personally benefit us or a loved one.
The problem is simple. The answer is not.
Operation costs associated with running any fire department continue to increase as local, state, and federal grant dollars dry up.
Taking care of equipment is a given. But, there is more to it than that. Equipment costs for replacement(s) are compounded by expiration dates mandated by law. The cost of travel and training must be met to maintain classification rating.
None of us needs fire or rescue – until we need it – and then, we really need it.
God forbid, that any of our loved ones find themselves in an emergency situation. But, if that be the case – in this first response area – it will be the MFD responding with the equipment that you and I have provided for them.
Marlinton and its first response area are blest to have a group of dedicated and talented individuals who are willing to put themselves at risk on our behalf. I want to do all I can to help them meet the challenges of keeping the best people and the best equipment possible to do the job.
Up to this point, I have implied that it is you and I providing this service. The fact of the matter is, it has been the citizens of the Town of Marlinton and approximately 480 others from outside our city limits, who already voluntarily pay. (This number is up from a year ago.) Together, they have contributed to keeping an active department staffed, equipped and on standby for the next emergency call. Fairness of services (alone) would pre-suppose a cost sharing of the service.
We/the Town or MFD, have never considered that until now. The need is great The remedies are few. The time has come.
Consider: Over the last three-year period, 82 percent of calls came from outside the town limits.
Yes – the fire department is housed in Marlinton.
Yes – we will do everything we can to support them.
But, the fact of the matter is – 30 Trained/Certified Specialists use $3 million worth of equipment to respond to calls outside the town limits.
MFD maintains a 1986 tanker truck, which, when the time comes, will cost approximately $300,000 to replace. For the most part, the Town does not need a tanker truck. The Town has a water system and hydrants.
Most serious traffic accidents happen outside the town limits. In town, the chance of needing a $30,000 jaws-of-life is remote. Note: Unless you are in the business of extracting bodies from a crash, you may not realize that new car designs often require new training, new equipment, or some modification of extraction techniques.
Maintaining a good Department Rating is valuable to everyone who pays homeowners insurance within the first call area. If we were to lose our current class V rating, it would cost each of us more in homeowner premiums than a typical annual fire fee.
FYI: We were notified November 21, 2016 that the recent ISO inspection has resulted in a Public Protection Re-Classification of 04/4Y, which will become effective March 1, 2017. Most insurers use PPC information as a part of the decision making process calculating premiums for personal or commercial insurance.
This is where things get difficult:
If we want our fire service to maintain the best ratings by keeping its people properly certified and equipment reasonably updated, it is only fair that all those depending upon the service pay a fair and equal fee.
The First Response Area is set by the State Fire Marshal’s office.
Fire protection is just another service many would not think about until they found themselves without it. It is like turning the water on – as long as the service is there – there is no problem.
A few weeks ago, in trying to explain the town’s recent sewer issues, I made the comment, “if we flush and it goes away – we might think there is no problem.”
Fire service is the same in that respect. Just because you heard about the fire department responding to an incident yesterday, does not mean there is no problem today.
To accomplish our goal, the Town has already raised its in-town fee from $25 to $50 per year.
The fire fee for the First Due Area would be the same. That amounts to a bottle of water or a soft-drink per week.
The Marlinton Town Council will meet Monday, February 6, at 7 p.m. to discuss and/or act upon the Fire Ordinance – possible first reading will be on the agenda.
Anymore who lives in the First Due, commonly referred to as First Response area, is invited to this meeting.
The MFD First Due Area includes: US 219 from Mine Road south to the top of the hill at Cook Town; Route 92 from Sunset Road south to the Greenbrier County line; Route 39 to the Virginia line and Route 28 from Seneca Forest back to Route 39. The First Due Area goes to the intersection at Clover Lick and includes everything in between.