A joint meeting between the Board of County Commissioners and the Orange County's Fire Chief's Association was held Thursday in order to discuss several possible initiatives, as well as to provide a status upgrade on how the fire departments in Orange County currently fare.
The fire chiefs come together every year to discuss with the commissioners their current status and how they plan to improve themselves by introducing or updating several different plans.
One order of business focused on the construction of a joint training facility between the EMS, fire departments, sheriff department and other local emergency services in Orange County.
"We can do something as a whole for the county," said Brad Allison, fire chief of Caldwell Fire Department, in describing the facility.
Allison also went on to describe how crucial volunteers are to the fire department of Orange County, and addressed that they would need a place to train. Orange County currently employs 391 unpaid volunteers in their fire services, he said.
"The goal is to get to some engineered structure so they can get experience before a 3 a.m. call," said Jeff Cabe, fire chief of Orange Rural Fire Department, regarding the volunteers.
Cabe also suggested they help pay for the facility by charging other counties to practice their training in Orange County; thus, allowing experience in different environments to prepare for a house fire.
The joint facility still lies in very early stages of its planning due to troubles finding land that is both centralized to all the districts in Orange County, as well as large enough to hold all of the needed training resources.
"Keep us in the loop on this," said Earl McKee, chairperson of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, while showing interest towards the facility.
Furthermore, Director of Emergency Services Jim Groves announced a lengthy status update on the fire department's progress concerning responsibilites, such as call and response time.
Groves said their call response time was far above average when compared to the rest of the country. But the dispatch time fell below the national average due to several problems, including issues with overtime budgets during the last year. The dispatch times are slowly regaining traction this year.
Groves attributes the department’s apparent success to the Orange County Emergency Services strategic plan, which highlights a prepared, coordinated and integrated emergency services system. The strategy has shown great improvement for the departments.
"We're enhancing our compliance with state and national 911 standards," said Groves. "Each one of our divisions has some really, really, really good focus moving forward."
The Board of County Commissioners plans on adding a Carolina Blue basic life-support truck to provide transportation from the UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus to the primary UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
"Fires aren't scheduled, emergencies aren't scheduled," said Jeff Cabe, fire chief of Orange Rural Fire Department.
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