When Macon County Emergency Management Director Warren Cabe first alerted county leaders to issues within the West Macon Fire and Rescue Department in April, he explained that the department has been plagued by low volunteer numbers and turnover in department leadership.
At that April meeting, while informing county commissioners of “no-show” calls in which the predominately volunteer department were dispatched to calls but failed to have anyone respond by the department over the previous year, Cabe did offer hope by introducing the department’s new Chief, Tony Randall, who was committed to reforming the department. In April, Cabe recommended the county continue to monitor West Macon pending their upcoming state inspection in May.
“On April 11 Emergency Management was asked to come out and check our roster due to new members joining,” Randall said. “We were found to have the 19 required members with adequate training and Warren reported that night to the county commissioners that he was happy with the progress made and recommended no further action pending the scheduled ISO rating inspection by NC OSFM on May 22.”
While the county found no issues leading up to the state inspection, the North Carolina State Office of the Fire Marshall once again found the volunteer department to have staffing issues and issued a notice of non-compliance.
“OSFM appreciates the cooperation and assistance given by members of your staff during the recent inspection of your department. The purpose of the inspection was to verify that your department meets the State’s minimum requirements for a certified department,” reads the letter issued to Macon County on May 23 from the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
According to the notice from the state, West Macon did not meet the minimum standards or requirements for a certified department due to being low on personnel and for failing to meet minimum response requirements, meaning the department failed to respond to a call when dispatched or failed to have the required number of firefighters respond to a call when dispatched.
Randall noted that the department is already well on its way to addressing the issues presented by the state.
“The ISO inspection is a very thorough process but, on the training, and membership part of that inspection they look at a snapshot of time January 27 2022 through January 27 2023 which includes the probation time mentioned above,” explained Randall. “New members added after January were not included. As a result, West Macon received a Notice of Non-Compliance from the Office of State Fire Marshal.”
The letter explained that “Failure to meet the minimum requirements for a certified department will lead to a change in the rating classification of your department and the fire district(s) it serves to a Class 10 rating.”
West Macon Fire and Rescue currently holds a Class 4/9E rating. If their rating classification were implemented, the change to a Class 10 would affect all property insurance premium calculations for residential occupancy insured under Homeowner policies and other special schedule surveyed property.
According to Cabe, at this time, no changes are being made to the class rating for property within West Macon’s Fire District and the department is diligently working to rectify the issues. The department has 30 days from inspection to submit a detailed written corrective plan and then will be allowed six months to implement the plan. If after the six months, the department still does not meet all the minimum requirements, the Office of the State Fire Marshall will take action o change the status of the department from non-compliant to probation.
“No actions have been taken by OSFM against West Macon Fire and Rescue beyond the Notice of Non-compliance at this point,” said Randall. “We have been notified that they will return in six months to give us time to correct the deficiencies. We currently hold a Class 4/9s rating and that will not change until a full ISO rating inspection is completed in six months. This new snapshot of time will allow the hard work of our new members who joined since January to be recognized. I want to thank OSFM and Macon County Emergency Management for their impartiality, guidance and insight throughout this process. My officers and members have been working very hard to ensure WMFR continues to provide quality fire, rescue, and medical response well into the future.”