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NCFS Chief O'Brien to improve volunteer stations

COVINGTON — Newton County Fire Service Chief Kevin O’Brien wants to staff more volunteer fire stations in order to improve response coverage.

The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution May 20 allowing O’Brien to have career firefighters at three volunteer stations, which will in turn meet the ISO recommendations.

The current ISO rating is 5/9, an improvement from the 6/9 rating in 2012, O’Brien said in a presentation before the BOC last week.

“As the community grows, we need to have more stations staffed to increase response times, and eventually it will impact our ISO ratings,” O’Brien said.

More volunteer firefighters are also working to enhance their education and receive certifications so more volunteer fire stations are better equipped to respond to calls.

“We’re moving toward more career personnel in order to provide a better service to the community. And since then we’ve seen an increase in volunteer firefighters,” O’Brien said. “We currently have four volunteers now qualified to operate our apparatus; previously none of the volunteers had the credentials to drive a truck.”

The three out of the six volunteer fire stations are not owned by the county, but by individual residents or business owners in the community. O’Brien said that while the equipment and trucks located at those stations are owned by NCFS and the county foots the bill for utilities, the property buildings are owned by individuals.

O’Brien said he would like to consolidate all volunteer stations under Newton County Fire and institute mandatory training programs to ensure all responders meet minimum training levels.

His other goals for the NCFS include implementing a replacement program for equipment and reorganizing response districts and current dispatching procedures to improve response times.

O’Brien projects that the NCFS will receive 7,500 calls this year with 15,500 unit responses.