Residents want fire district

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Just before adjourning its meeting Monday, the county’s planning commission made a recommendation to the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors requesting the comprehensive plan include creating a fire district to cover the area in and around the Highlands subdivision.

Commission member Ray Garrett made the motion that was approved unanimously after Highlands resident Bill Gates made the commission aware there was a gap in the county fire coverage.

Fire coordinator Wes Anderson acknowledged the Highlands was not in a fire district, but wanted to make it clear to those in attendance that the Highlands does receive coverage from the fire department and units do respond when called.

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“Fire districts are generally for insurance purposes,” Anderson said. “There is a gap on Highway 6. If there is a fire we generally send the closest three units. Right now the Highlands would be Station 2 on Highway 30, Station 5 at Yocona and Lafayette Springs. If it’s during the hours of 7-5, Monday through Friday the paid crew out of Central Station would be coming. So you’re still protected. It’s not a matter of, like in a lot of places, if you’re not in a district you don’t get a response. That’s not true in Lafayette County. We go anywhere. We’ll even go to the city if they call for help.”

Future fire station?

In order for a fire district to be created, there must be a fire station within that district, according to Anderson.

“The supervisors do recognize the need for a station there in order to create a fire district,” Anderson said. “That is priority number one for the fire department, contingent upon funding.”

Commission chairman TJ Ray said it was a “good suggestion” when Gates asked that the board inquire if a water system pressure could be checked to see if it is capable of supplying water to the county fire department. Gates said there is a decades-old letter on file with the county fire department indicating the Punkin Water Association, which serves the Highlands, does not want the fire department to hook directly into the water system.

Garrett asked Anderson what logic may be involved in a letter the fire department has on file from 10 years ago asking the county fire department not to hook into the water system.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Anderson said. Anderson added that the fire department has, at times in the past, hooked into the water system to fight a fire and “dealt with the consequences later.”

“They eluded to it collapsing pipes,” Anderson told Garrett of the letter that is on file.

“I’ve only been here (on the commission) for three months, but that concerns me that you’re not supposed to tie into a water system,” Garrett said.

Gates asked Anderson what the letter states.

“That we are not to hook into their system at all,” Anderson said. “Now it’s a dated letter. It’s probably 10-plus years, so things may have changed, but we don’t have anything on hand that says we can.”

County engineer Larry Britt said he believes the letter is related more to hooking a fire pumper truck directly into the system because rural development, who developed most of the rural water systems decades ago, have a rule in place stating they do not provide fire coverage.

“Have they ever prevented you from filling a tank from a (fire hydrant) plug?” Britt asked Anderson.

“Not to my knowledge,” Anderson replied. “Like I said, generally we just do it. If there’s a problem we just deal with it.

“We do not control water systems,” Anderson added. “But there have been some issues with that particular water association in other subdivisions.”