LELAND, NC (WECT) - Staffing issues at the Leland Volunteer Fire/Rescue Department have put them at risk of having their fire district reclassified from a 6 to a 10.
For insurance purposes, a classification of 10 is the equivalent of not having fire protection, and could easily double insurance costs for homeowners in the Leland area.
Leland Fire Chief John Grimes said the state conducted a surprise inspection on May 10.
"It was a totally unannounced inspection," Grimes explained. "A citizen had called and complained multiple times about a time frame of us responding is my understanding, and they were following up on that and checking compliance."
As a result of that inspection, Grimes said inspectors found four calls from 2015 when his department did not have the required four personnel responding to a fire alarm. Grimes says two of those cases resulted from improper documentation by his staff, but two of them were legitimate cases where they did not have the required personnel on hand. He also said they covered most of their 1820 calls for service last year without any issues.
Grimes said the population in the Leland area has exploded in recent years, call volume has increased, and they simply don't have enough full-timers to respond to all the calls. The 80 volunteers that assist the department are a huge help Grimes said, but more full-time staff members are needed.
According to a May 17 letter from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the "department will be given twelve (12) months to meet the minimum requirement… If the deficiencies are not corrected within 12 months, the fire insurance district(s) will be classified as a Class 10."
Grimes had a meeting planned with department volunteers Monday night in hopes of beefing up their shifts in the short term to help with coverage.
Grimes said his office has applied for a grant to help them fund additional full time positions, at least temporarily. But if they don't get that grant, there is no immediate plan bring them into staffing compliance. Grimes says he is still confident a solution will be found to prevent the fire district from dropping to a 10.