UNION COUNTY — They are trained provide rescue services including underwater rescue and extracting people trapped in automobiles, in providing medical services, and in fighting fires and in 2016 they responded to 763 emergency calls in Union County.
They are the 29 members of Union County Fire Rescue and they recently posed the following questions to Union County Council:
Can you support Union County Fire Rescue? Can you afford not you?
Those were the questions posed to council during its March 14 meeting by Capt. Kenneth Black of Union County Fire Rescue at the end of a presentation on the organization, its history, the skills it brings to emergency situations in the county, the increased demand for it services, and the costs involved in providing those services.
Origin And Primary Goal
“Union County Fire Rescue was established in 1959 and gained its 501c3 status, as recognized by the IRS, in November 2008,” Black said. “Union County Fire Rescue’s primary goal is to provide rescue services, emergency medical support as requested, and fire ground support. Also provided are educational services to the citizens of Union County.”
Black pointed out that there are 29 members of Union County Fire Rescue, 15 of them divers including 8 basic divers, 6 Public Safety Certified divers, and one Dive Master.
Black said that all 29 members are First Responder Certified with 27 of those certified in Auto Extrication.
Black said that in addition certification in those areas, 27 members are certified 1152 — OSHA (Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration) Basic Interior Firefighter (80 hours).
Black said that in 2016, Union County Fire Rescue ran a total of 763 calls including:
• Medical — 580
• MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) — 155
• Fire — 12
• Special Assignment — 15
• Missing Person — 1
Black did a comparison of the “call volume” of other county emergency responders, of which only one, Union County EMS ran more calls in 2016 than Union County Fire Rescue. Those agencies and the number of calls ran in 2016 were:
• Bonham Fire Department — 92
• Buffalo Fire Department — 146
• Carlisle Fire Department — 44
• Jonesville Fire Department — 268
• Kelly-Kelton Fire Department — 113
• Lockhart Fire Department — 49
• Monarch Fire Department — 114
• Philippi Fire Department — 162
• Santuc Fire Department — 70
• Southside Fire Department — 68
• Union County Fire Rescue — 763
• Union County EMS — 4,800
Increased Calls, Decreased Funding
Black pointed out that in addition to being the second-highest number of runs in 2016, the number of runs Union County Fire Rescue went to that year was nearly double what it had been the previous year. In fact, it was nearly double compared to each of the previous three years.
Over the last four years Fire Rescue has responded to the following number of calls in the following years:
• 2013 — 408
• 2014 — 489
• 2015 — 465
• 2016 — 763
Black added that this year Fire Rescue has already responded to 47 calls.
Even as the number of calls it responds to has grown, Black said its county funding has decreased. He pointed out that in 2013 and 2014, Fire Rescue received $25,000 from the county, but that in 2015 and 2016 it only received $15,000..
Black said that for fiscal 2016 Fire Rescue had a total income of $22,684 and total expenses of $24,980.25 leaving a deficit of $2,287.03. He said Fire Rescue is now facing a deficit of up to $6,000 for fiscal 2017, a problem made worse by the fact that funds the organization had put aside in the past are now largely gone having been used to cover previous deficits resulting from loss of county funding coupled with increased demand for its services.
To remedy this and enable Fire Rescue providing the emergency services it does, Black asked council to add the organization back to the county’s 2016-2017 as a line item funded at $25,000.
Supervisor Frank Hart said that council would consider doing so when putting together the county’s 2016-2017 budget.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.