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Fire marshal approves Upshur County fire department boundary changes designed to increase efficiency

BUCKHANNON – Several Upshur County Fire Departments are undergoing several boundary changes for improved efficiency.

Buckhannon Fire chief J.B. Kimble said these boundary changes have been part of a four-year process to improve response times across the county. The Buckhannon Fire Department, both a career and volunteer entity, has been evaluating their response times because they are seeking national accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

“These changes were mostly for common sense,” Kimble said. “A great example is Pringle Tree; it’s less than a mile from Route 33, and it’s five miles from Warren District, yet it was in Warren District’s fire district.”

In total, there are seven fire departments in the county; however, the changes only affect four of those departments: Buckhannon Fire Department, Ellamore Volunteer Fire Department, Warren District Volunteer Fire Department (Hodgesville area) and Washington District Volunteer Fire Company (Tallmansville area).

Each of the four departments requested the changes, which were approved Feb. 4, 2022, by the West Virginia Office of the State Fire Marshal, according to a letter that appeared in recent Buckhannon City Council and Upshur County Commission meeting agenda packets.

New fire district/emergency zone boundaries / Image courtesy of Terri Jo Bennett, county addressing and mapping coordinator
Old fire district/emergency zone boundaries / Image courtesy of Terri Jo Bennett, county addressing and mapping coordinator

Kimble explained Warren District, which covers Hodgesville, was responsible for several areas where they had to go through Buckhannon’s district to get there, which did not make sense.

“Another good example is at the bottom of the hill of Bailey Ridge, which is in Tallmansville’s District (Washington District), it’s 2.6 miles for us and seven miles for them, so we took response times for us, because nobody else is collecting the data, and we tried to calculate the closest areas that we could provide quicker, better service and that’s how we came up with the changes,” Kimble said.

There were also areas in Buckhannon’s fire district that firefighters determined would be better served by another department.

“This is Hawkins Road, and we can’t serve that — I don’t even think we could get our big truck down that road — so we gave that to Ellamore,” Kimble said. “When you look at Mountain Ridge Road, on the left-hand side of Mountain Ridge Road, you have Tallmansville and on the right-hand side you have Buckhannon, and why would you have that? So we gave all of that Tallmansville.”

As of Feb. 24, the new map had not been implemented in the Upshur County E911 Communication Center’s Computer Aided Dispatch system yet, but that process was underway, Kimble said.

“If we have a fire in the county, I present a run card to Doyle (Cutright, director of the E911 Comm Center) with the 911 Center which lays out my first-, second- and third-due fire departments, so we know it would be station one, station six, or station two, just for an example,” Kimble said. “We’ve done the city in a grid for residential fires and commercial fires, so whenever there’s a fire in the city, CAD pops up for them and makes it very easy because it says, ‘Station One, Engine Six and Engine 12.”

“Once we get on scene, if we say we have a working fire, it will automatically send a second alert for an additional fire department, so it reduces radio traffic, vehicle traffic and the whole nine yards until we get on scene and dictate we have a working fire,” he added.

The boundary changes do not affect the three fire departments located in southern Upshur County: Adrian, Banks District and Selbyville volunteer fire departments.

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