Wake County Considers Consolidating Rural Fire Departments
WAKE COUNTY – Fire stations in rural Wake County may face consolidation as the county looks to stamp out spending costs.
Deputy Wake County manager Joe Durham says the current fire tax district budget is unsustainable.
“At the current rate, (the fire tax budget) will be operating at a deficit by 2014,” Durham said in a recent phone interview.
Wake’s Fire Tax District funds fire protection in unincorporated areas of the county and Wendell through 13 not-for-profit departments and contracts with six municipal departments.
The budget became unbalanced in the last 12 years as municipal populations and boundaries grew. Municipal fire departments then expanded their service areas – thereby shrinking the service area of fire departments in rural, unincorporated areas of the county. Since 2000, the amount of unincorporated land in the fire tax district shrunk from 615 square miles to 550 square miles.
Yet, despite the reduction in service area, the cost of operating Wake’s unincorporated fire stations continued to grow. So, this month, Wake County staff hopes to meet with leaders of its fire departments to brainstorm cost-cutting measures.
Raising property taxes to boost revenues is not an option, Durham said. Mergers are an option. And, in Durham’s presentation to county commissioners last month, he identified the Eastern Wake County, Falls Lake, and Swift Creek fire districts as candidates for consolidation.
Ray Broadwell, chairman of the Board of Directors for Eastern Wake Fire & Rescue, says he doubts Eastern Wake Fire could cut expenditures without affecting fire service. Eastern Wake Fire, which serves areas of the county south of Knightdale and east of Wendell, employs 18 full-time firefighters.
“I don’t see how we can,” he said in a Feb. 5 phone interview. “Most of our costs are in personnel.”
Review all of the fire stations in Wake County at FDmaps.com.
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