Support your local fire department

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

They stand at the ready, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

No matter the circumstance, they’ll show up at your door when summoned. They are highly trained; their skills are mandated to cover a wide variety of scenarios.

Some of those faces may be your friends and neighbors. Others may be total strangers. They see no color; no financial status; no religion. But you’ll see them if a situation arises in your life that requires the expertise of a firefighter.

Imagine your life – at home, at work, on the road – without them. On whose broad shoulders does the responsibility fall if there are no volunteers to answer a fire call?

That’s a question which begs for an answer in the small Hertford County community of Union. Last week, the volunteers of the Union Rural Fire Department made a formal request for a fire tax at a meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners. A public hearing was held on the matter. Most of those who spoke praised the firemen for their long-standing tradition of protecting the community, but none favored a four-cent tax to assist the department in their day-to-day operations.

Neither did the commissioners.

Union Fire Chief Jim King attempted to lobby the support of the commissioners by laying out the department’s finances – numbers that revealed an annual deficit of roughly $29,000. That deficit would be covered with a fire tax.

King said the department is nearing the end of its financial rope, cashing in what few CDs they had. With the rising costs of doing business as a fire department, the Union crew attempts to offset that by hosting a series of fundraisers throughout the year. Those proceeds help, but only place a small dent in the $65,000 the department needs annually to operate.

Then there’s the matter of a handful of property owners within the Union Rural FD’s district already being assessed a fire tax….part of what once was the Ahoskie Rural FD’s district. If I was among those property owners, I’d be raising cain over why I’m taxed and others are safe-guarded for free.

In their collective “no” response about a fire tax, the commissioners said now is not a good time, with the economy the way it is. They also cited their effort to prevent taxes from rising in the county. Isn’t this the same group that supported a quarter-cent hike in the local share of the state sales tax to build a new courthouse?

Up until three weeks ago, I lived and paid a 4-cent fire tax in the Ahoskie Rural district. I didn’t see it as a tax, but rather as an investment. The $35 I paid per year saved me $120 on my homeowners insurance because the Ahoskie Rural firemen invested that money into equipment, which helped to maintain their outstanding fire rating, which my insurance company really liked.

All the fire departments in our local area consist of hard-working, dedicated volunteers that stand ready to help in the worst of times. They never know what a day will hold….all one has to do to believe that fact is to see the news this past weekend of the 19 firefighters killed while battling a wildfire in Arizona. Or think back to Sept. 11, 2001 when 340 firefighters died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Our firemen need our support…whether it’s through the purchase of a barbecued chicken plate or 40 bucks a year in a fire tax.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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