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Gas crunch leads to emergency

The rising cost of gasoline has now affected the McDuffie County Fire Rescue Services. After a request from the county commissioners to trim his budget on gas purchases, Fire Chief Bruce Tanner issued an operational order to suspend dispatching manned stations to all first responder calls in the county.

The fire chief said the order pertains to first responder calls only. All fire calls will be handled as normal.

Chief Tanner said the county has six stations, with only two of them being staffed. According to the old policy, a staffed station was dispatched no matter where the call came from.

"But the new policy is that we are only going to page out the station within the jurisdiction of the call," the chief said.

First responders are firefighters who are certified to handle medical situations. Chief Tanner said they usually respond to medical calls because they may get there faster than the ambulance.

"The ambulance is still going to respond just like normal," he said. It's not like they are not going to get any response. ... If they call for an ambulance, they are still going to get an ambulance. But they may or may not get a first responder."

The county's staffed stations are located on Salem Road and next to the airport. The other stations rely totally on volunteers. The disadvantage of relying on volunteers, according to Chief Tanner, is that many times they are at work and not available to respond.

"That's the reason you have to have as many volunteers as we have," he said, noting that the county has 80 volunteers, with 60 percent of those certified as first responders.

Chief Tanner said all department heads in the county were asked to find some fuel cost cutting measures that would not have a serious impact on their services.

"I decided to do this," he said. "I don't think it's going to have as big an impact on the services that we provide. Fire-related emergencies, we will respond to just as normal. This only affects the first responder calls because there is a guaranteed response from the ambulance."

Other ways the fire department is cutting fuel costs was to cut back on driver training, driver drills and territorial studies, according to Chief Tanner.

Web posted on Thursday, August 14, 2008

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