Durham County Receives Results of Fire Service Study, 2014

This is a blog archives posting from February 5, 2014, and re-posted here as the original is unavailable due to technical issues.

February 5
Reports this Herald-Sun story[1], Durham County Commissioners will vote next week to endorse (or not) the recommendations of the recently receive fire protection study. On Monday, the Interim County Manager provided a lengthy briefing. There was also some voice disagreements by a fire chief, on points related to staffing requirement and composition of governing boards. The biggest change suggested by the study involves southern and western Durham County. In both areas, it’s recommended that the city fire department be instead contracted for fire protection. 

[1] Link now broken, http://www.heraldsun.com/news/x849281197/Commissioners-mull-fire-study-s-advice

December 31
Here’s a copy of the entire study (PDF, 1.5M).

Notes and observations:

  • Three county fire departments ceased ambulance operations in 2012. Bahama on December 31 of that year, and Bethesda and Redwood on June 31, 2012. Parkwood is the only county fire department that’s also an EMS provider.
  • Newer apparatus is recommended, particularly for nine pieces of frontline apparatus that should be replaced. Of the 39 pieces of major fire apparatus in the five departments, eleven were manufactured prior to 1991.
  • New station locations are recommended for Redwood Station 2 and Station 3, which the study cites should be “farther out” to improve their effectiveness. The study also raises the idea of a Bahama Station 4 in the northeastern corner of the county.
  • See page 56 for a map showing the planned location for Durham Station 17, located just up the road from Bethesda Station 2. Don’t have any idea on timeframe, and the project isn’t listed in the latest city CIP budget document. Maybe readers can assist.

The recommendations starting on page 67 are more extensive than reported by the Herald-Sun and which were noted in our original posting. They address these issues:

  • Level of Service
    • ISO Ratings
    • Response Times
  • Contract Limitations
    • Personnel
    • Apparatus
    • Apparatus Standards/Minimum
    • Financials
    • Purchasing
    • ISO Requirements
    • Dispatch Protocols
    • Response Times
    • Contract Attachments
  • Data
    • (As entered in) FIREHOUSE
  • Revenue Management
  • Fire Stations and Fire Apparatus
  • Volunteer and Department Staffing
    • Volunteers
    • Department Staffing
    • Response Personnel
    • Compensation
  • Consolidation
    • BFD/LFD/RFD > Rural Fire Service District
    • BFD/PFD > Suburban Fire Service District
    • Authority

Bethesda Fire Department today:

  • Merged with Durham County effective July 1, 2013
    Now named Durham County Fire-Rescue: Bethesda District
    Two stations
    Three engines (one is a 75-foot quint), one aerial platform, one rescue, one tanker, one brush, one “squad”
    Has 31 full-time employees, part of Durham County Fire Marshal’s Office – Fire Suppression Division.
    Has ten to twelve volunteers.

Thanks to readers, for the BFD/DCFR information.

December 29
Durham County officials recently received the results of a consultant’s study of the county’s fire protection services. The efficiency study (my words) cost $68,300 and was conducted by Charlotte-based consultant Steve Allan (source: Herald-Sun story[2], January 18). He has worked in the area before, and had (as of January) recently completed a study of EMS services in Orange County. The study was prompted by County Manager Mike Ruffin, who has expressed a desire to see a “uniform fire service across the county.”

[2] Link now broken, http://www.heraldsun.com/news/x2029061884/County-to-study-fire-departments

Outside of the City of Durham, unincorporated areas of Durham County are primarily protected by five fire departments: Bahama, Bethesda, Lebanon, Parkwood, and Redwood. Some information about them as cited in the study/effective at the time of the study:

  • Bahama
    Three stations
    Fire and EMS department
    Operated by non-profit corporation
    Has no full-time, 26 part-time, 41 volunteer members
    Four engines, three tankers, two brush trucks
    Protects 4,725 residents in 58.48 square miles
    Answered 668 calls in 2012


  • Bethesda (now Durham County Fire-Rescue, see above)
    Two stations
    Fire and EMS department
    Operated by Durham County
    Full-time employees are county employees
    Had 19 full-time, 22 part-time, 24 volunteer members
    Department merged with the county on July 1, 2013
    See April 13 posting
    One engine, two pumper/tankers, two ladders, one rescue,
    one brush, two ambulances
    Protects 7,550 residents in 19.41 square miles
    Answered 2,170 calls in 2012
  • Lebanon
    One station
    Fire department, no EMS
    Operated by non-profit corporation
    Has 10 full-time, 19 part-time, 17 volunteers
    Full-time employees are county employee members
    Three engines, one tanker, one brush truck
    Protects 9,275 residents in 21.50 square miles
    Answered 823 calls in 2012
  • Parkwood
    Three stations
    Fire and EMS department
    Operated by non-profit corporation
    Has 29 full-time, 13 part-time, 25 volunteer members
    Over 900 calls last year.
    Four engines, two tankers, two ladders, one rescue, one air truck,
    one brush, five ambulances
    Protects 3,675 residents in 18.33 square miles
    Answered 914 calls in 2012
  • Redwood
    Three stations
    Fire and EMS department
    Operated by non-profit corporation
    Has no full-time, 46 part-time, seven volunteer members
    Three engines, three tankers, one brush truck, one ambulance
    Protects 7,650 residents in 49.14 square miles
    Answered 1,135 calls in 2012

This Herald-Sun story[3] from December 11 reports on some of the study’s findings and suggestions, which include (as described by them):

  • Establish common pay scale for all fire departments
  • Establish common capital-improvement plan, to govern equipment purchases and building upkeep
  • Make all county firefighters county employees, which Lebanon and Bethesda currently area.
  • Create within the county Emergency Management Department a supervisory position for county fire chiefs to work and communicate with.
  • CConsolidate the Lebanon, Bahama, and Redwood tax and service districts into a single northern/northeastern Durham district.
  • Consolidate the Bethesda and Parkwood districts, and eventually turn to the City of Durham to provide fire coverage.
  • In western Durham, request the City of Durham to take over coverage of two areas served by New Hope and Eno fire departments of Orange County.
  • In northern Durham County, consider if Bahama can take over coverage of areas covered by Butner and Moriah fire departments of Granville and Person counties, respectively.

[3] Link now broken, http://www.heraldsun.com/news/x1401022772/Suggested-fire-consolidation-only-for-tax-districts-county-says

Next steps for the study is preparation of a report on the study, for the County Commissions. This report will be delivered in early February or early April.

Related to the study’s release is this News & Observer story from yesterday[*], about the Parkwood Fire Department and its finances.

[*] Link now broken, http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/12/28/3486593/parkwood-fire-department-paid.html


Legeros – Updated department information, as contained in the report. Also, today’s N&O featured this letter to the editor, as a response to the Parkwood FD story: http://tinyurl.com/lqgl75k

Legeros – Further updates to department information. Only PFD is an EMS provider. Bahama ceased ambulance operations on December 31, 2012. Bethesda and Redwood ceased ambo ops on June 30, 2012.

Charles – Durham county EMS stations an Ambulance at Bethseda station 1.

Mike Bishop – Mike I believe I was told that Parkwood has ceased or is about to stop providing EMS units as well.

Legeros – Correct, Parkwood was notified that the county will be taking over its EMS service and equipment as of July 1.

Legeros – Mike, thanks for mentioning. Forgot about that development, in the context of this subject. Here’s a Herald-Suns story from January about that, http://www.heraldsun.com/news/x1401032140/Trustee-to-manage-Parkwood-VFD-finances

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