North Carolina Fire Station Plans Moving Forward

A consultant blessed plans Tuesday for a new fire station on the South Point Peninsula that would protect Belmont's southern reaches and the surrounding unincorporated area.

That means Belmont can share the estimated $1.2 million cost of the station with the South Point Volunteer Fire Department, which serves the unincorporated area. Belmont's public safety committee voted Tuesday to launch financial negotiations.

The volunteer department bought land for the station just south of the Duke Power canal on South Point Road because it has outgrown an older station nearby. For its part, the city must protect a new development at the southern tip that it plans to annex, and its current fire station is six miles away.

Belmont hired the consultant last month to determine how much of the peninsula could be reached from the proposed station within the time required by fire insurance companies. The city wants to avoid building a third station if it continues to annex land on the peninsula.

Consultant Sherman Pickard, a former Raleigh fire chief, told the city Tuesday that the new station would cover all of the peninsula that can't be reached in the recommended time from the current station. But he said the city could provide better service from a site to the north of the planned volunteer station.

Under that plan, the city would close its central fire station and build new stations north and south of downtown Belmont. It would continue to rely on volunteer stations farther north and south of the city for assistance with calls in Belmont's farthest-flung neighborhoods.

The city's fire chief, George Altice, supported that plan because it would decrease reliance on volunteer firefighters. He said people paid to wait at a station get to fires more quickly.

But that would cost more than four times as much money as splitting the cost of a single station with the volunteer department. Members of the public safety committee said they did not have the money. They said they instead would consider paying a few firefighters to help staff the two volunteer stations.

Neither plan would put firefighters within the optimal two miles of the new subdivision at the tip of the peninsula. Homes in Reflection Pointe will have a collective value of about $300 million.

Plans to annex the development were the reason Belmont started planning for a new station. But the consultant and the fire chiefs said protecting Reflection Pointe was not a particular concern because expensive new homes just don't catch fire very often. Fires, they said, favor older or dilapidated buildings.