Sometimes no matter how much effort we put towards prevention, emergencies still happen. Emergencies occur in a wide range of varieties; no longer does the fire department respond to just fires, but to medical emergencies, motor vehicle accidents and search and rescues, just to name a few.
The Fairview Fire Department has been working diligently to provide the best fire and emergency response to the citizens of Fairview for over 50 years. We strive to keep everyone in the Fairview Fire District in the lowest (best) insurance rating possible and respond to emergencies as quickly as possible. We would like to let everyone know a few things that we have been working on to ensure the continued safety of our community.
In May 2004 the Fairview Fire Department went through an intense inspection by the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI). The NCDOI inspects fire departments throughout the entire state for the purpose of determining Fire Insurance Ratings Classifications. The results of this inspection are used to give each fire district their Fire Insurance Classification. This insurance classification is used by homeowners’ insurance companies to set the amount that property owners pay in homeowner’s insurance premiums.
After the inspection in 2004 we successfully improved the Insurance Classification from a Class 9 to a Class 6. This saved property owners in Fairview Fire District approximately $250-$300 on their homeowner’s insurance premiums. Improving our rating was a goal we had set and we worked extremely hard to achieve it. Keeping up with the growth of the community and maintaining the rating is even harder.
While we successfully improved our rating in 2004, we were advised of areas that we had to work on to maintain this improved rating. We needed to add a substation on Old Fort Road in the Spring Mountain community, add an engine and a tanker, and add more personnel. We made this another goal and in 2007 we moved into the Old Fort Road substation and added another engine. In 2009 we added an additional tanker and 9 additional personnel.
Two weeks after opening the substation in 2007 we responded to a garage fire that was endangering the house nearby. Due to the quicker response from the new substation, the first engine and crew arrived on scene within 5 minutes instead of what normally was a 10–15 minute response time from the main station. Two months after opening the substation we responded to a cardiac arrest at the Spring Mountain Community Center. Again, a crew arrived on scene in less than 5 minutes. The doctors credited the man’s survival to the quick response and application of CPR and defibrillation. Had the substation not been in place and we had to respond from the main station, the man more than likely would not have survived. In our efforts to keep the department’s growth on par with the community’s growth, we have identified the need for a substation in the southern end of our district. This station would reduce our response times to that area from 10–12 minutes to approximately 5 minutes. In 2008 we located a property for sale that would allow a quicker response to most areas in the southern end of our district. After researching many fire department floor plans and touring many recently constructed departments we found a design of a newly constructed station that we feel will fit in well with the community.
All of the requirements and goals that have been fulfilled up until this point have been achieved without requesting additional funding through the fire district tax rate. This is a result of both close fiscal management and expansion of the tax base. Fairview Fire Department is currently tied with one other department in Buncombe County for the lowest fire tax at 7.5 cents per 100 in property value. During the past 20 years, while having one of the lowest fire tax rates in Buncombe County, we have transitioned from an ALL-volunteer fire department to a combination of career and volunteer firefighters. We went from just one station to two, and have added additional fire and rescue apparatus as required, all of which has been done without an increase in the fire tax.
We submitted a request to the Buncombe County Commissioners requesting a raise in our fire tax from 7.5 cents to 9 cents, an increase of 1.5 cents per hundred dollars in property value. As an example of the impact, a Fairview homeowner with a property valued at $200,000 who is currently paying $150 a year in fire tax would have their fire tax raised $30 a year. The revenue from this increase would be applied toward the construction costs, mortgage and operating expenses of the new substation.
Without the increase, we will be at risk of losing our current insurance classification and property owners in the entire Fairview Fire District could see an increase of $200–$300 or more in homeowner’s insurance premiums instead of just a $30 increase in fire tax.
Our goal is to respond to each emergency call within 5 minutes. Currently our response time into some areas in this part of our district is 10–12 minutes. In a cardiac emergency a person who can be defibrillated in 4–6 minutes or less after collapse has a good chance of surviving. A person who cannot be defibrillated within 8 minutes of the moment of collapse has only a slim chance of surviving. The chance of survival is reduced 7–10% for each minute of delay in medical intervention.
In residential structure fires, experience has shown that the lightweight metal and wood trusses found in most homes fail within 5–10 minutes of being exposed to fire. This does not allow occupants in the home much time to escape even if a fire has burned unnoticed for only minutes. This also puts our Firefighters on scene at the most dangerous time.
We are trying to continue to provide the best fire and medical protection possible for our community. To reduce property damage from a fire, firefighters need to get to the scene quickly. Therefore, NCDOI evaluates the distribution of fire stations in each community. NCDOI establishes “standard response districts” around each existing fire station. The standard response district for an engine company is defined by streets and roadways leading from the fire station out to a distance of 1.5 road miles. For a ladder truck company, the standard response district is defined by streets out to a distance of 2.5 road miles. The NCDOI also provides a time–distance table that calculates a “standard response” of fire apparatus. This table states that it takes a fire apparatus 4.9 minutes to travel 2.5 miles.
If we are unable to construct a substation on Cane Creek Road, a large part of the southern portion of our district will experience a typical response of 10–12 minutes and possibly more.
We submitted our request to the Buncombe County Commissioners to be approved during the Buncombe County budget meeting on June 19. It’s with great disappointment that we must notify the citizens of the Fairview Fire District of the Buncombe County Commissioners’ unanimous decision to not support our fire tax increase request. The fire tax increase would have been applied towards the beginning phases, planning and construction of the much-needed substation in the Cane Creek Valley. Our concerns continue that we might lose our improved insurance rating, which could cost homeowners $200–$300 or more. This increase would affect properties in the entire Fairview Fire District that are more than 1000 feet from a fire hydrant. This substation would drastically reduce our response times to the Cane Creek Valley and the southern end of our district.
We would like to thank the Fairview Community for the overwhelming amount of support that we have received for our request. Despite this setback we will continue to provide the best fire and medical protection that we possibly can. Questions? Email Chief Scott Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org