Harpersville FD ends aid agreement with Westover Volunteer FD
Published 11:50 am Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Harpersville Fire Department has ended its aid agreement with the Westover Volunteer Fire Department, possibly leaving residents outside the Westover town limits without a reliable aid source.
The Town of Westover Fire Department only serves residents within the Westover town limits.
The Harpersville aid agreement with the Westover Volunteer Fire Department ended Oct. 12 at 8 a.m.
Harpersville Fire Chief Wade Holley said it was impossible for his department to run all of the Westover Volunteer Fire Department’s calls without cutting into the service for his own city.
“Our department has had about 60 percent increase in our own city alone over the past two years. It got to the point where we’re running so many calls with less manpower that we just can’t adequately provide service to them,” Holley said. “We were basically running all the calls they got. It was starting to become overwhelming.”
Holley said the Harpersville Fire Department has been receiving 10-15 calls a month out of the unincorporated areas the Westover Volunteer Fire Department serves. Meanwhile, in Harpersville, call volume has gone from 400 calls yearly two years ago to 800 calls this year.
“We started (handling the Westover Volunteer Fire Department calls) a year and a half ago. We were trying to help them out while they got their program going,” Holley said. “It just got to a point where we’re doing good to take care of our own city.”
The Westover Volunteer Fire Department has been in this situation before.
Chelsea Fire Chief Wayne Shirley said his department had an automatic aid agreement with the Westover Volunteer Fire Department, but pulled out more than a year ago.
“Basically, the volunteer fire department wasn’t making their calls and we were running all their calls for them. It wasn’t economically feasible to do,” Shirley said. “We have our own area that we’ve got to cover first, and we don’t have the resources to cover all their calls for them as well.”
Chief Tim Honeycutt, of the Town of Westover Fire Department, said he’s concerned that residents of the unincorporated areas may not immediately have available help in an emergency.
“My fear is that folks are going to be calling 911 and expecting some kind of medical attention or fire service to come to their aid, and no one’s going to come,” Honeycutt said. “
He said the Westover Volunteer Fire Department is responsible for an extensive area of land on Shelby County roads 51 and 55 as well as Shelby County road 280.
“It’s a pretty wide area they cover. There’s a lot of homes there,” Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt said the Town of Westover Fire Department won’t be covering the Westover Volunteer Fire Department’s calls because there is no automatic aid agreement in place between the two departments.
“I can’t just get in my truck and go run their calls. It’s their coverage area and it is their responsibility,” Honeycutt said. “It would be like the city of Pelham running the city of Alabaster’s calls without being invited. We wouldn’t want another city coming and running our calls without being invited.”
Holley said he suggested that the Westover Volunteer Fire Department contract with a private ambulance service to handle medical calls. He said if the Westover Volunteer Fire Department called with a fire emergency, the Harpersville Fire Department would help in any way possible.
“Like with any fire department, anytime they called and asked us to help, as long as we had the manpower, we’d be more than happy to help,” Holley said.
Holley said the Westover Volunteer Fire Department’s chief resigned months ago, and to his knowledge, the volunteer fire department has not named a new chief.
Three calls to the Westover Volunteer Fire Department went unanswered. There was no answering machine available.