BLUE RIDGE, GA – Fire Chief Larry Thomas delivered his first ISO update to the board of commissioners on Sept. 24 and reported that he has hired a temporary person for hydro-maintenance as well as added new training classes.
After last month’s report of Fannin County’s ISO rating increasing to a six, Thomas has implemented several methods to try and ensure a favorable report in July 2020.
Thomas has met with all the mayors in Fannin County as well as The Water Authority (TWA), and they have agreed to assist the fire department.
“Did you ever have any luck finding any companies that will do the flow tests or is that something the cities are agreeing to help?” asked Post One Earl Johnson.
Thomas confirmed that Blue Ridge is providing the county with flow test data that is has recorded. The information from Blue Ridge goes back three years. McCaysville hasn’t offered that information but has promised to help in any way possible.
The temporary worker performing hydro-maintenance is servicing 20-27 hydrants a day, and Thomas would like to hire another temporary employee to assist with the 800 plus hydrants.
Chairman Stan Helton asked, “How long is it going to take them to [finish maintenance]?”
Thomas hopes the contracted workers will finish by the end of 2019. Then perform the maintenance again in early 2020, so when the insurance person comes back, the county will have two years completed.
The flow tests and maintenance should help the county earn up to seven points in the water department section of the ISO test. The money to pay for the hydrant servicing will come out of the fire department’s operations budget.
Johnson commented, “Have we found any contractors that do [flow tests] because I’m glad we have a guy going around greasing everything, but I think they need to be doing the correct flow test while they’re doing it.”
“I’ve talked to one,” confirmed Thomas, “I think he quoted me $75 per hydrant which would be $60,000 to do all of them. He would be able to do it, but I don’t know the time frame he would give for 800 hydrants.”
Two years of flow tests would each cost $60,000.
“The contract labor that you’re talking about hiring, they’re not going to be able to do an actual flow test,” stated Johnson, “They’re flowing the hydrant, just so we’re clear on the difference, a flow test has how many gallons per minute and probably pressure at that hydrant…We might want to look into if a contractor can do it all for $75 a hydrant.”
TWA’s looking to see if any other companies have done flow tests on record. Also, Thomas wants to see if the cities will help cover the costs of the flow tests.
Flow tests and maintenance needs to be performed every year.
For the fire department personnel section, the county has to hire paid firefighters, responding to fire calls, as well as preplanning for commercial, industrial, and institution buildings. Together, these efforts should increase the test score.
“We really need to start talking about that coming toward budget time to see what we can do to help the department,” stated Johnson, “Because I think that is another area that we’re going to have to move toward is having full-time fighters.”
Currently, a new rookie class is in training as well as additional training being offered volunteers.
“We will continue to do as much public safety education as possible to gain points in that area,” said Thomas, “Additionally, Cherokee County Georgia Fire Chief Tim Prather has offered the services of his Investigations Manager Cheri Collett to assist us in reviewing the ISO findings.”
Collett’s expertise is free of charge for Fannin County. She will begin as soon as possible.
“If we keep saying it’s not going to raise things that much by one point, it’s really not going to be worth the county spending a bunch of extra money. So, we need to make our mind up, does the ISO rating mean anything or nothing,” stated Johnson, “We’re all in agreement that the ISO rating needs to go in the other direction. So to go in the other direction, it’s going to take money. I think we all understand that, so I don’t think we need to keep saying it’s not that big a difference.”
Thomas agreed and added that he believes in the fire department is progressing with the ISO rating and overall.
Helton added he would like to see how much it will cost the county to get the ISO rating back down.
Johnson finished with, “I was able to witness first-hand the need for some full-time firefighters. There was a fire in my neck of the woods and we should be very thankful for volunteers that participate. The glaringly obvious thing that I saw for all of your department, there needed to be more people.”