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Commissioners talk fire department woes


Fire departments were a hot topic when the Washington County Board of County Commissioners met in regular session on June 15.

During the non-agenda portion of the meeting, members of the public and volunteers from Country Oaks Fire Department addressed commissioners with their concerns.

Nan Thompson lives in the Country Oaks area and says she has been attending fire department meetings for several months and learned by listening that an engine that was purchased several years ago by Country Oaks Fire Department from the Orange Hill Fire Department could not pass state testing and no paperwork could be found to show if it had been tested or where and when it had been tested. Thompson went on to say another engine had been brought in the last six months to replace the previous engine, again with no paperwork, no lights, and a failed pump test. The engine is currently parked at the Orange Hill Fire Department. A third engine was brought in two weeks ago, unable to pass testing and no paperwork and is parked at Country Oaks Fire Department.

“Who is doing this and why?†asked Thompson. “What reassurance do I have, as a resident out there if we don’t have an engine? If we have a structure fire, we are screwed. New people are moving in daily and a having fires, unaware that we don’t have help nearby. I have noticed that Country Oaks doesn’t even get called out, Orange Hill or Wausau is called out, why is that?â€

Commissioners tasked County Administrator Jeff Massey to look into the issue brought forward by Thompson and find a remedy to the problem.

A volunteer with Country Oaks FD, Troy Cunningham, also raised concerns to the board. The issues were the same as Thompson, fire engines.

“The engine that we purchased several years ago could not pass the pump test and was supposed to be out getting repairs,†he said. “In the meantime, we were given a loaner truck that sat at the Emergency Operations Center for no less than three months. That truck was sent over to Sunny Hills FD to be pump tested and was sent over to us to be placed into service. As we started to put our gear on it, we noticed it was not ready to go into service. The lights would go out and there were no marker lights on the sides. I was tasked by Chief Johns to handle the issue so that is what I am doing.â€

Cunningham went on to speak about how when he raised the issues to Fire Coordinator Justin Leach that the engine was facing, he was told to immediately take the truck out of service and use the first attack brush truck as their interior truck. “He said to do it and I am not supposed to question him, but according to NFBA, we can’t do that. A technician came and the next thing we know is the truck is being taken back to Sunny Hills for pump testing. It didn’t pass the first time or the second time. You guys have in an email, 29 pages of testing for that truck and hydrants, it didn’t pass. Now we have another loaner, and it is just sitting in the bay. We don’t have an engine out at that station.â€

As commissioners are not required to answer questions during the non-agenda portion of the meeting, Chairman Tray Hawkins thanked Cunningham for his time and moved onto the next citizen to bring a concern.

Skyla Jones brought concerns with hiring practices for the county after finding an employee, who was not named, had a conviction on their record. Attorney Matt Fuqua and Massey were asked to look further into the matter.

In other items, Hawkins brought the matter of a county canning center for discussion amongst the board. Each commissioner was on board with finding a funding source to bring the center to reality. Commissioner Wesley Griffin called canning a “lost art†and was excited to see a canning center be once more in the county. Hawkins was tasked with finding a way to bring the idea to fruition.

Members of Chipley High School Baseball Team were recognized by the board for winning their first ever state championship title for CHS. Coach Andy Compton, assistant coaches and team members were on hand to accept certificates and coins from the board.

The Washington County Board of County Commissioners will meet again in regular session at 9 a.m. on July 13.



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