Dec. 24--The Iredell County Board of Commissioners approved two new rescue districts in southern Iredell County at its Dec. 17 meeting, completing a two-and-a-half year process that has broken the Mooresville rescue district into five smaller districts, each serviced by their pre-existing fire department.
"Those five fire districts were already there, and now they are fire and rescue," said David Saleeby, Iredell County fire and emergency services coordinator.
The change essentially formalizes an evolution that took place over the past few decades in response to the explosion of population and traffic in south Iredell, Saleeby said. That shift, along a broader trend toward combined fire and rescue districts, led each of the five fire departments located in the rescue district of Mooresville Rescue Squad (MRS) to add their own rescue services and equipment.
That meant better service because, for example, when someone got stuck in a vehicle near Lake Norman, they no longer had to wait for the Jaws of Life to drive out of downtown Mooresville. But without new districts, that also meant that multiple departments wound up responding to the same calls from dispatch.
"We saturated the market," Saleeby said. "This did not happen overnight, but it's starting to be recognized, and all of a sudden the citizens are asking questions -- 'I fell down and my lawnmower hit me and broke my leg, why is there a fire truck with four people on it, an ambulance from the county, a rescue crash truck with a couple of people, another ambulance from there and all of these volunteers?'"
The commissioners began addressing the problem in April 2011, when they granted the Town of Mooresville Fire Department its own rescue district in the heart of MRS turf.
The process picked back up in September, when the board created districts west of Mooresville for the Lake Norman Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and north of town for Shepherds Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. Finally, on Dec. 17, the commissioners split up the remainder of MRS' district and gave it to Mount Mourne Volunteer Fire Department in the south and South Iredell Volunteer Fire Department in the east.
The trend toward combined fire and rescue districts is not unique to Iredell, and Saleeby said it should help the county make better use of the $618,300 it spends annually on the services.
"If you have a wreck and only rescue shows up, and your car is on fire, that's not good -- rescue doesn't put out fires," Saleeby said.
"But if fire can equip themselves to handle the same emergencies, they're already there. It's more efficient and it's just the way business is done now."
Before the splintering in the south began in 2011, Iredell had four rescue squads that covered the county from north to south: North Iredell Rescue Squad based in Harmony, Iredell County Rescue Squad based in Statesville, Troutman Rescue Squad and MRS.
With MRS superseded by the five fire and rescue districts, the commissioners said at their fall work session that Iredell has the right number of rescue districts, and the board will not allow this process to creep any farther north.
As for Mooresville Rescue Squad, which no longer has a district where it will be dispatched, Saleeby said the county is considering how best to use the squad's remaining resources. As it currently stands, MRS will continue to provide backup ambulance service for Iredell County EMS and standby medical services for events, along with rescue backup for the new districts.
During next year's budget process, the commissioners will decide how to fund the new districts.
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