• 88°

PH Volunteer firefighters resign Monday

Pinehurst Volunteer Fire Department resigned on Monday during a meeting at the fire station located behind Pinehurst City Hall.

“We tried to work out a deal with the city manager,” Chief Shon Branham said in a phone interview prior to the meeting. “They will vote to stay or to go.”

And to go is the result of the meeting as the members lined up in front of the station with their gear, sat it down and turned their backs.

The back of the shirts they were wearing reads: “We stand together.”

Branham said the department was supposed to have an open meeting with the City Administrator Jerry Hood, Pinehurst Police Chief Fred R. Hanauer III, and Mayor Dan Mohon.

“Now he wants a closed meeting without the rest of my department,” Branham said.

While the volunteers have been going door to door in the city for signatures for a petition to not have the calls they go on restricted, one volunteer stated in a Facebook post it was more than the call restrictions.

“… Today our whole Fire Dept has walked out due to the city Manager failing to hear the voices of the first responders. Also I feel my life is no longer safe to enter a fire due to expired equipment. I stand with my Dept. If my fire chief walks out. I walk out.”

“This came about when the city administrator deemed that all medical calls were unnecessary for us to respond to,” Fire Chief Shon Branham said in a previous interview. “In our view, as first responders, breathing problems, chest pains, childbirth, choking, falls, diabetics, seizures, strokes, unresponsive persons, and unconsciousness are calls we feel necessary that a first responder should go to.”

The reason these are deemed unnecessary calls is due to an increase in dispatch service contract fees.  The service went up $1,100 when Pinehurst had to change dispatchers from Orange County ESD1 to ESD 2 dispatch.

The price increase came from a three-year average which totaled $25 per call, which made the increase more than what the city had paid for the past 10 years of service.

A CPR in progress call is the only medical call the department can go on according to the changes. The proposed budget for 2019-2020 for the fire department is $48,890 according to the approved budget on the city’s website. Of that amount, $6,000 was budgeted for fees- fire runs and $13,000 for contract dispatch services. With the new dispatch service, the cost of the services would now cost $14,100 per year.

Calls to the city have not been returned by press time.