1. #1
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    Post Columbia SC needs more firefighters

    Columbia needs more firefighters
    ecol-piv
    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Columbia Fire Department "does not
    maintain sufficient personnel" and "fails to meet performance
    objectives described in current industry standards," according to
    a risk analysis conducted by the International Association of Fire
    Fighters.
    Columbia Chief Bradley Anderson said he hopes money from the
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security will help remedy the problem.
    Eight of the department's fire stations have only one paid
    firefighter on duty at all times - an engineer who drives the
    truck.
    Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations
    require that at least four firefighters be on a scene before they
    can start fighting fires.
    That's not a problem in the city, but in the county, a fire call
    means rounding up firefighters from other stations. That costs
    valuable time.
    The department wants nearly $1.4 million to hire 29 engineers so
    it can staff at least two firefighters at its county stations that
    rely heavily on volunteers.
    The department hopes to get that money from the Department of
    Homeland Security's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency
    Response grants.
    "It's stressful at times knowing that you're going to get on
    that truck and run a call and not know if anyone else is going to
    show up," said James Ballentine, an engineer at the Capital View
    station who says he's lucky if gets one volunteer per call.
    "I'm my own engineer, my own captain and my own firefighter if
    need be," he said.
    Anderson requested the additional money from the Richland County
    Council, but was denied. The county gave permission for the
    department to apply for the grant, but the County Council still has
    to approve the grant, said Michael Byrd, emergency services
    director for Richland County.
    "We have to evaluate them to make sure they fit into the
    county's financial situation," he said. "If the grant runs out,
    where is the funding going to come from to pick up whatever
    commitment we've made?"
    While the county has added 80 paid fire positions since 1990,
    but the county's population has grown by almost 49,000 people.
    "That's more stuff that we have to protect," Anderson said.
    "We're just basically trying to catch up with the development."
    In addition to the 29 county firefighters, the department is
    requesting 14 positions for some of its county rescue units, 15 to
    staff a ladder company in the St. Andrews area and 15 battalion
    chief aides. That brings the total grant request to about $6.8
    million over four years. The amount of the grant reduces each year
    and the county makes up the difference until the fifth year, when
    the county would pay the full amount.

    ---
    Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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