Recommendations For Cary Fire Department, 1971

In September 1971, the Town of Cary Safety Committee released a report with recommendations for improvements to the fire department. CFD like other town departments–indeed, like the community itself–had experienced growing pains. From 1960 to 1970, the town population explosion 121.4%, with expected 14% growth each year from 1970 to 1980.

The fire department was presently protecting 7,500 residents and property valued at around $30,000. They had a full-time fire chief, Terry Edmundson, hired January 1, 1971. And he had brought new ideas to the department, though, as the report noted, “there were naturally some questions raised for changing of old procedures or techniques.” He established guidelines and rules and regulations that both paid and volunteer members were to adhere to. And failure to meet those standards resulted caused problems, including the dismiss of one fireman.

On the other hand, noted the report, the fire department had been built up through the years by volunteers who “built up loyalty and pride [to] the present [department].” And some of those members were not measuring up to the high standards set down in years past. Thus, said the report, the Chief, the volunteer firemen, and paid firemen had “failed to communicate with each other” and this caused a morale problem.

Thus Mayor Fred Bond requested that the Safety Committee–consisting of Councilman Thomas Griffis, Chairman, and Russell Secrest–to “make an inquiry into all phases of the fire department.” The investigation took about four weeks, and the committee talked with most of the paid and volunteer firemen.

They found, in general, that there was a “conflict in personality” on a “number of incidents” [instances?], a “lack of communication” between the chief and the firefighters, and “the absence of an organizational structure.” Though there was a structure present, it had “failed to prove itself” as effective. And which made sense, as the Chief had only been employed for a short time, his Assistant Chief was “from the ranks of the volunteers,” and the two lieutenants had a “minimum amount of administrative training.”

Thus, upon concluding their investigation, the committee made a list of recommendations. Those are below. They also made recommended some immediate actions to the Town Manager and the Fire Chief. One of those was that Chief Edmundson was to immediately cease using his personal pick-up truck in any capacity with the fire department. He was to park away the truck away from the fire station, and “do everything possible to remove red lights, radios and other [identifying] emblems,” so it couldn’t be identified as “official Cary Fire Department equipment.”

Also, Chief Edmundson was living at the fire department at that time [!] and was instructed to immediately find living quarters away from the fire station.

For the department in general, their recommendations were:

1. After interviewing both volunteer and paid firemen, their opinion was that a fully-paid [career] fire department should be created “when funds are available.”

2. When there’s a promotional opening, all qualified firemen “should be given a written examination” and the promotion based on “their qualifications and examination.”

3. Rules and Regulations should be updated, each member furnished a copy, and one or more meetings held to review the rules with the members.

4. Minimum salaries should be “raised upward as soon as possible” and which will “assist in employing trained personnel.”

5. The addition to the “Central Fire Station” should be completed as soon as possible.

6. A new radio system should be installed immediately.

7. The Fire Chief should hold a staff meeting at least once a month with himself, the Assistant Chief, and his Lieutenants, to keep them “informed on activities, policies, and problems within the department.”

8. Volunteer firemen should not be permitted to be members of other fire departments or police departments.

9. Volunteer firemen who fail to meet the “minimum drills and meetings” for two successive month, without excuse, should be removed from the roster.

10. All drills should be conducted when scheduled, and there “should be serious consideration before cancelling” any.

11. A code of conduct should be established “setting forth [expectations for] personal habits.” It should emphasize “drinking habits, driving habits, and any other personal habits which would reflect on the individual, the fire department, or the uniform.”

There’s an ironic footnote to the last item, as Chief Edmundson would later resign due to allegations of improper personal conduct. He left office in August 1975, after allegations that he made two false alarm telephone calls from his home. He was initially suspended two weeks without pay, and formally resigned on August 7. The town declined to make an investigation. Chief Edmundson was subsequently hired as chief of the airport fire department, and where he served until his death in 1985.

Source: Safety Committee Report, September 23, 1971

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