Ed. — Currituck County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Bobby Hanig read the following statement on Monday, Dec. 4, during the meeting in which the board established a Knotts Island fire department led by county personnel. This was called an “interim” measure to address issues that followed a contract dispute between the county and the Knotts Island Volunteer Department, which suspended service on the island last month. This has been gently edited for style.
BY BOBBY HANIG
CURRITUCK, N.C. — As many of you are aware, the Knotts Island Fire Station has undergone several important changes in the past month.
On Nov. 8, the Knotts Island Volunteer Fire Department informed the county that the station’s volunteers would no longer respond to fires or other emergencies in their community. As a result, Currituck County staffed the Knotts Island Fire Station with paid county employees from the county fire and emergency medical services department. These employees are dually-certified as paramedics and firefighters.
Since the volunteers’ withdrawal, Currituck County has maintained a staff of four fire and EMS members at Knotts Island on a 24/7 basis, and we will continue to do so.
Though taking over the Knotts Island Fire Station was not the county’s original intent, the board of commissioners views this situation as an opportunity to increase public safety and provide peace of mind to the residents and property owners in Knotts Island. Everyone living or owning property in Knotts Island can be assured of a timely and appropriate response to a structure fire or other emergency.
At this time, the county views this arrangement as an “interim” solution. The board of commissioners will discuss long-term plans and will engage the citizens of Knotts Island as we move forward. We have the utmost confidence in our fire and EMS staff, and we will establish a professional and effective system. In doing so, Knotts Island will not see a change in its fire insurance rating.
A long-term solution may or may not include the creation of a fire service tax district for Knotts Island. That has not been determined and is something the board of commissioners will need to discuss.
The situation with the volunteer fire department arose as a contract dispute, but, in reality, an intervention by the county has been needed for some time.
With Knotts Island being a small community, geographically removed from Currituck’s mainland, the fire station has suffered from an extremely low number of volunteers for several years. We have been told that, currently, only 10 active volunteer firefighters live in Knotts Island.
This lack of volunteer manpower places many properties and lives in danger. Our fire and EMS staff has documented several incidents over the past three years in which the volunteers had zero or minimal response to emergency calls. Also during this time, Knotts Island volunteer officials have made written requests asking the county to provide additional manpower.
Therefore, we feel the time is right for the county to step in and take the lead in Knotts Island. The board of commissioners is committed to providing a high level of public safety for every community and we will not allow Knotts Island to receive inadequate fire protection.
However, the county has enjoyed a long relationship with the volunteers in Knotts Island and we do not want that partnership to end. We invite all current volunteers and other interested residents to work with us by volunteering with the Currituck County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. A combination system of paid firefighters and community volunteers would be a tremendous asset to Knotts Island.
To find out how you can volunteer, contact the department at (252) 232-7746. We have a volunteer coordinator, Lt. Ray Irizarry, who will help you get started.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC