02/18/14 409 W - + 4 - 1 History of Wake County Fire Service Governance (And More)
The Garner-Cleveland Record last week posted this story about the annual retreat of town council and staff. Among the things they're discussing moving toward making the fire department a town-run organization. This has inspired some good discussions on the Facebook side (my private page, alas), and led me compile a quick (ha) history on "how we got here."
How did Wake County arrive at the current system of fire departments and funding and governance therein? The short version goes like this:
- Beginning in the 1910s and 1920s, towns formed fire departments, funding equipment operated by citizen volunteers.
- Ditto for suburban and rural communities, though they paid for their things with donations or sponsors.
- By the 1950s, the county was contributing a monthly amount to each non-municipal fire department.
- Meanwhile, "county fire departments" were operating with town contributions (if available), donations, member subscriptions, etc.
- By the 1960s, the first fire tax districts appeared, authorized by a special election, with each household was paying for their "rural" fire protection.
- In 1963, the Wake County Fire Chief's Council was created. They served as a point of leadership and governance through the late 1990s.
- As the decades progress, some of these privately-operated fire departments merged into their municipal counterparts (if town-based).
- Others remained independent, and were formally contracted by the towns they served.
- Some "rural" departments disbanded or moved, as their suburban districts were impacted by annexation.
- By 1988, every fire department was funded by a tax district. Garner was the last to have a district created.
- In 1994, a study of the county fire service brought changes including creation on a single fire tax for all departments and creation of an advisory board (the fire commission).
- In 1998, the Wake County Fire Commission held its first meeting.
- In the 2000s, the first county-owned fire station facilities were built.
- In 2004, another study brought more changes, including county ownership of trucks, countywide specs for new trucks, and bulk purchasing of trucks and equipment.
- Plus quite a few other things.
Here's the long version (PDF):
Can you help fill in the blanks? Lots of room for improvement. What's the history of paid and career members in "county" departments, for example? When did the Chief's Council begin? Does it date back to 1963? What was Wake County Fire Districts Commission, mentioned in the 1970s? Etcetera.