Background on Chatham Fire

Chatham Fire’s official origin began in 1961 when the volunteer fire agency incorporated and several other volunteer departments consolidated to be able to provide a more efficient and more responsible service in unincorporated Chatham County.  Chatham Fire is a combination department, meaning they utilize a mix of both paid (career) and volunteer licensed firefighters.  Many of their volunteer firefighters are actually highly qualified, career firefighting personnel who voluntarily respond to fires on their days off.  Chatham Fire currently has 14 stations that cover the 242 square miles of homes, businesses, land, and roadways within unincorporated Chatham County.

Chatham County Survey Q&A

Please note the following questions that were asked about Chatham Fire that are related to the current funding discussion before the County Commissioners. Questions and comments unrelated to the Commissioners Six Options discussion were omitted.

  1. What is the fee to put fires out if you do not pay the subscription?
  2. Chatham Fire will put out the fire and the owner would be billed the cost of putting the fire out.  The average cost is between $8,000 and $18,000.  
  3. Why are you taking out liens if the subscription is not mandatory?
  4. A lien is not applicable for subscriptions and none have ever been filed for a subscription.  Liens are only permitted by Georgia Law if/when actual fire service is provided and the property owner then refuses to reimburse the fire department for the service provided.
  5. What is the ISO rating for Chatham Fire?
  6. ISO 2 and 2x.  This is important as ISO ratings are very important to keeping insurance cost low.
  7. Where can a subscriber to the Chatham County Fire Service find the financial information for the operation? 
  8. Information required by law including financial information are available to the public and is posted on Chatham Emergency Service’s website at www.chathames.org.
  9. Does Chatham Fire meet the national standard (NFPA 1710)?
  10. Chatham Fire (like all local fire departments) strives to meet NFPA 1710.  However, no local fire department (including Chatham Fire) meets NFPA 1710 100% of the time.
  11. Why is staffing such an important issue with respect to firefighting operations?
  12. Safety.  Firefighting is significantly dangerous and is increasingly more hazardous today than ever before.  Firefighting deaths (except 9/11) have been on the decline due to a focus on safety and assuring adequate personnel to perform fire suppression and rescues.
  13. With increased fees and the desire to make them a requirement, will Chatham Fire increase the number of firefighters on fire trucks?  Why/why not?
  14. Absolutely.  This is already in progress in effort to meet NFPA 1710.
  15. With increased fees and the desire to make them a requirement, how will Chatham Fire look to improve their emergency response?  Why/why not?
  16. Yes.  Similar to other answers, increased staffing is key to improving responses.
  17. How many Chief Officers does Chatham Fire currently employ? 
  18. Chatham Fire employs 1 Fire Chief, 1 Deputy Fire Chief, 3 District Chiefs.  
  19. Should this ordinance come to fruition, will Chatham Fire allow the general public to view this budget from year to year?  Why/why not?
  20. The budget is already disclosed and discussed during the annual subscriber meeting.
  21. How many firefighting apparatuses, not support vehicles, are in each district?
  22. Skidaway – 2 Engines, 1 Ladder

Montgomery – 1 Engine, 1 Tender

Islands – 3 Engines, 1 Ladder, 2 Tenders

Southside – 2 Engines

7th District – 5 Engines, 1 Ladder, 1 Tender

There are numerous other support vehicles that can respond to calls with manpower and equipment. 

  1. As a non-profit, do employees and board members receive bonuses at the end of the year? 
  2. Employees have historically received a Christmas bonus every year as a “thank you” for their service. Board members are not compensated.
  3. Why should someone with an empty lot pay for unneeded fire protection?  
  4. Nearly half, or 41% of all the firefighting activity Chatham Fire responded to were ground fires. Bushes on fire, trees on fires as they hit a power line in the wind, lighting strikes, carelessly discarded cigarettes cause many fires on land, like brush and wildfires.  Open land fires require fire extinguishment and thus fire protection.
  5. Why is the charge based on value – rather than the size of the building, the risk of the building (all wood, no fire alarms, old vs concrete etc.), distance from a fire hydrant?
  6. The vast majority of the country uses value as a highly efficient and simple method to calculate contribution.  This is used for police protection, schools, and a litany of other public services.  Attempting to judge each property based on construction type, materials, sprinkler system (and annually validating that it is functional), distance to a hydrant, access means, etc., would be highly complex and require an entire department of inspectors to review each property each year.

 

  1. If you have a house on the water – with a large water view – you are now paying much more for fire protection due to the property value – than a riskier home inland. How is this fair?
  2. Properties on water have additional inherent risks that inland properties do not have.  Examples include boat fires, lack of access Fires, dock fires, water rescues, etc. that are impossible to quantify based on home value alone. 
  3. What if my neighborhood does not have fire hydrants?
  4. Chatham Fire has three, 3,000-gallon water tenders and a 3,600-gallon water tender that are dispatched to calls in neighborhoods without fire hydrants. In addition, our fire apparatus standard is for each new engine to carry a minimum of 1,000 gallons of water to each fire.
  5. How do I know where the closest fire house is?
  6. Visit our website at chathames.org/hydrants and you can locate the closest fire station and the closest fire hydrant to your property.