West Orange’s fire services combine with Pinehurst’s in interlocal agreement

Published 11:07 am Wednesday, November 14, 2018

By Krista Salter

The Orange Leader


WEST ORANGE — The West Orange City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to combine its local volunteer fire department with neighboring Pinehurst’s fire services, citing lack of response and lengthy response times for the merge.

The discussion lasted roughly an hour as city officials and fire chiefs and firefighters from both departments spoke on the combination of forces, that ultimately left Councilmember Mike Shugart making the lone opposing vote.

West Orange Mayor Roy McDonald said his main concerns with the city’s volunteer fire department is the inability to respond to medical calls, the lack of training being received, untimeliness when filing reports, and the response time for calls or complete lack of response.

Chief Terry Vietch of West Orange’s Fire Department said the idea of combining fire services with Pinehurst’s Fire Department was only presented to him three hours before the meeting, alleging this was an issue that had been brewing for some time prior to his knowledge.

The council said attempts to contact Vietch were not responded to prior to the meeting, and questions were raised about seeking other remedies to the council’s concerns regarding fire services before seeking to enter a joint interlocal agreement with Pinehurst.

Nearly the entire West Orange Fire Department showed up for the meeting, many firefighters arguing that the small department manages the needs of the city with the resources and time available to them to the best of their abilities, despite working full time jobs and taking care of households and families.

West Orange firefighters questioned why their department wasn’t left in charge or even notified in a timely matter that was met by reassurance by the council that the department would still be in place, but under Pinehurst’s leadership.

Vietch defended allegations against untimely report filing, saying all fire reports are filed in a timely manner from inside the firehouse and sent to the city secretary.

The council also argued that the West Orange Fire Department does not have the proper certifications mandated by the state to perform first responder medical calls that are managed by Acadian Ambulance and Pinehurst Fire already, and Pinehurst does.

Although the department is CPR and first aid certified, to run the first responder medical calls in West Orange, an ordinance would have to be passed by the city, work would have to be done through the state and training provided to the department.

As of the time of the vote, West Orange Fire Department is under Pinehurst’s first responder ordinance that allows them to respond to medical calls for the city of West Orange, which is one of the main reasons the council decided to switch despite heat from the city’s firefighters.

Pinehurst’s Fire Chief Shon Brenham said firefighting is dangerous, so combining departments would provide more people responding to calls and being able to make medical calls without having to wait for Acadian Ambulance.

“If there is no first responder ordinance in place all you can do is what your city allows you to do,” Brenham said, also adding that the departments already work well together.

Towards the end, Shugart made a motion to hold the vote until more information could be gathered and more discussions could be had. The motion was overruled and the council proceeded to vote.

Affective immediately, the City of West Orange and its people are to be defended by the joint forces of both fire departments.

Pinehurst City Council also voted on the interlocal agreement Tuesday evening.

West Orange Police Chief Mike Stelly said the two entities would “share manpower and equipment to make it stronger for both entities.”

“We help each other out,” Pinehurst City Administrator Robbie Hood said. “We have to do what is best for Pinehurst and West Orange to help us grow stronger as we move forward.”

– Dawn Burleigh and Eric Williams contributed to this article.