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    Default Levy County to Address Fire Protection

    Chiefland Citizen

    Workshops planned for fire issues

    By Mike Bowdoin
    BRONSON - The Levy County Commission's effort to reform and improve county fire protection services will press forward in coming weeks, with special workshops planned to address the budget needs of the county's 13 fire agencies.

    The board held a workshop Tuesday night to go over some follow-up questions to a study on the county's fire services presented recently by consultant J. C. Robertson. However, commissioners and county staff indicated that the most serious issues - complaints by some of the departments that they are under-funded, and the need to replace antiquated firefighting equipment - will be taken up during the board's budget process this year.

    The board is proposing an increase this year in its special fire tax that will generate an estimated $645,000, up from the $491,000 that was taken in last year and used to fund the departments. However, with many of the departments requesting substantial increases in their annual allotments, such as Chiefland's request to increase its allotment from $56,000 to $90,000, the board may have to consider supplementing the special assessment funds with monies from the county's general revenues.

    "Looking at what's there, with some of the requests from the departments, the assessments aren't going to cover it," County Coordinator Fred Moody said Tuesday night.

    Moody said the funding situation would be broached at a budget workshop set for next Monday, but with all of the issues to work out, "a separate fire budget workshop will probably be needed."

    Besides providing operational funding, the board is also considering purchasing a fleet of new fire trucks to replace outdated equipment. At the workshop, board members and several local fire chiefs began a discussion of financing options for the trucks and strategies for equipping them with the appropriate accessories.

    The discussions on funding allotments and equipment purchases are expected to continue in upcoming commission workshops, with the advice of the fire departments being sought for those decisions.

    At Tuesday's workshop, Robertson also went over some answers to questions that had been raised at a previous workshop, including the benefits of working to improve the ratings of four "Class 10" departments in the county for insurance purposes.

    While residents living within five miles of Class 10 departments - which either lack sufficient manpower or facilities - receive no break on their insurance bills, Robertson said his research showed that residents near a Class Nine station would receive a 15 to 20 percent discount on fire insurance or a 12 to 20 percent discount on homeowner's insurance.

    Possible savings on insurance had been a key issue raised by commissioners previously when they were considering Robertson's recommendation to "pair" some of the county's smaller departments with larger municipal departments in order to reap the benefits of increased training opportunities and insurance savings for citizens.

    Robertson also gave an overview of descriptions for a proposed fire marshal's position and a formalized role for the Fire Advisory Board representing all 13 departments in the county.

    The primary role of the fire marshal would be to conduct fire inspections in the county. Robertson said state law holds that fire inspections should be conducted separately from inspections conducted by building departments, and both Moody and Chiefland Fire Chief David Burnett said the State Fire Marshal's office has sent out word to agencies in the county that the state will no longer be assisting with these inspections, meaning the county will have to hire a fire inspector.

    The county fire marshal would also serve as a liaison between the Fire Advisory Board and the county coordinator, and coordinate public fire safety education efforts in the county, Robertson said.

    The county's first budget workshop of the year will be held next Monday at 9 a.m. at the county courthouse. Moody said that from looking at the agenda, the fire department budgets will likely come up for discussion around noon that day.


    Copyright 2005 Chiefland Citizen
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Default Fire takes life of toddler

    Chiefland mobile home fire kills boy


    CHIEFLAND - A 3-year-old boy died in a Wednesday afternoon fire at a mobile home, apparently caused by his 5-year-old brother playing with a lighter, officials said.

    Relatives said 10 people lived in the mobile home. Two children and two adults were present when flames engulfed the mobile home at 1510 SW 16th Ave. next to the Chiefland Crab Co., said Chiefland Fire Chief David Burnett.

    The fire started at 1:41 p.m., apparently when the 5-year-old boy was playing with a lighter in a back bedroom addition, Burnett said.

    Within minutes, the mobile home was consumed by flames. Firefighters arrived five minutes after the first 911 call was made, officials said.

    But the flames were so intense, they could not get into the mobile home to rescue Gerad Hintch, 3, who was trapped inside, Burnett said.

    Gerad died in the fire and his mother, Grace Delion, 29, was taken to Shands at the University of Florida with non-life-threatening injuries, said Darry D. Lloyd, a detective with the State Fire Marshal's Office.

    The boy who apparently started the fire will be sent to a juvenile fire-setting program to understand what he has done, Lloyd said.

    The death of the toddler was especially hard on the firefighters, who felt helpless to save him, Burnett said.

    "It's emotional for us because we try to do everything we can," Burnett said. "Especially when it's a kid, it's really tough."

    Relatives and friends of the family sat in the shade from the summer heat comforting each other just feet away from what was left of the beige mobile home. A sofa, children's toys and other belongings lay strewn about the grass.

    Joe Denley, who said he has been the owner of the home for more than 20 years, said his son, Joe Denley Jr., and his son's fiancee, Delion, and her four children were temporarily living at the mobile home until they could move into a place of their own next month. The children were 3, 5, 6 and 7 years old, according to officials.

    "It's sad because this didn't have to happen," Joe Denley said as he looked at the charred remains of his home. "I don't know what we're going to do now."

    The fire is still under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office.

    Chiefland is in Levy County about 35 miles southwest of Gainesville.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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