Published 10:14 am Thursday, September 21, 2017

AHOSKIE – They have been proverbially “joined at the hip” for decades, now there is documentation to prove that fact.

In a brief ceremony here yesterday (Wednesday) morning, officials with the Town of Ahoskie joined with members of the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department’s board of directors to sign a mutual aid agreement.

While the Town of Ahoskie Fire Department and Ahoskie Rural have assisted each other for as long as the latter came into existence, the formal agreement aids both entities in sharing resources and manpower. That fact will hopefully lead to a lower fire rating by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, which, in turn, helps home and business owners gain a lower property insurance rate.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is responsible for inspecting all fire departments (rural and municipal) across North Carolina and assigning a fire rating from 1 (lowest) to 9S (highest).

“This is a full, automatic aid agreement,” said newly appointed Ahoskie Fire Chief George Michael Bradley, referencing the documents signed on Wednesday. “This is not a merger between the two departments, each will continue to operate in the same manner they always have operated. The key thing with this agreement is that when we go through a fire inspection by the state, each department will receive credit for each other’s vehicles and equipment as well as the combined personnel.”

There are a total of nine fire trucks between the two departments, plus the town’s pair of pick-up trucks.

Jerry Castelloe, Chairman of the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department’s Board of Directors, signs the same agreement while Pansy White, secretary of the board, waits the notarize the document.

“This agreement allows us to use any of these vehicles at any fire in either the town or rural district,” Bradley stressed. “It also covers both departments legally should anything happen with those vehicles and manpower.”

Bradley expects the next state inspection to occur in September of next year. There, he hopes the combined number of vehicles will help lower the rural department’s current 9S rating for those properties located outside of 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant. For those properties located inside of 1,000 feet of a hydrant, Ahoskie Rural has a 6 rating.

“We want to see that go even lower, which will benefit property owners with lower insurance rates,” said Bradley, who also serves as the Ahoskie Rural Fire Chief. “We will use this automatic aid agreement to challenge the state’s 9S rating in some areas of our rural district. We feel we can successfully challenge that rating due to the fact that it’s based on how we shuttle water from a hydrant to the drop tank at a fire scene, which prior to this agreement was done only using the rural department’s trucks. Now having additional trucks to shuttle that water should satisfy the state’s requirements, and thus lower the fire rating.”

Bradley continued by saying that while both departments are combining their resources, each will continue to purchase vehicles and equipment individually as well as each maintaining those items. Currently, the Town of Ahoskie has a set amount of money it budgets annually to operate its fire department. Meanwhile, Ahoskie Rural’s Board of Directors control the purchases made by that department from money paid by property owners residing in that district by way of an annual supplemental tax.

“This benefits both departments,” said Jerry Castelloe, Chairman of the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department’s Board of Directors. “Certain fire calls demand certain resources to respond. Our ladder truck is frequently called out to assist with incidents within the Town of Ahoskie, and the town’s equipment truck rolls when we have a fire in the rural district.

“With that said, you can easily see and understand how these two departments help each other and serve the citizens of their respective fire districts. The bottom line here is that this formal agreement helps both in gaining a lower fire rating and that helps property owners in town and in the rural district in gaining a lower rate on their insurance,” Castelloe added.

While both departments stand to gain from this new agreement, so do the citizens of the town and the rural fire district.

“They are the reason we do what we do,” noted Bradley. “We are on duty every day of the year, around the clock, to serve the citizens of Ahoskie and the rural fire district.”

Copies of the full, automatic aid agreement will be filed with the Office of the State Fire Marshal and with Hertford County Fire Marshal Chris Smith.





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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