Following closure, plans underway to reform Three-Point Fire Department; new chief named
The 3-Point Volunteer Fire Department is no longer certified by the state to operate as a fire department, and efforts are underway by a group of 3-Point area residents to form a new volunteer fire department in that community.
Until this happens, Williamsburg Fire and Rescue will be responding to most fire and emergency calls in the area.
Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. said he received a letter from the state fire commission Friday notifying him that 3-Point was no longer recognized as a "qualified certified" fire department.
"That day other agencies in the county were contacted to cover the area in case of a fire or emergency," White noted.
Efforts are currently underway to form a new volunteer fire department to service this area, which will likely be named Whitley County Volunteer Fire Department.
Despite the name, the new department wouldn't serve the whole county, just the 3-Point area, said Dorman Patrick Jr., who has been selected by firefighters as chief of the new department.
Forming the new department is a two-part process. The first part involves getting certified by the Kentucky Fire Commission, Patrick said.
The second part requires approval from the fiscal court to service the unclaimed district.
White said that the matter would be on the fiscal court's agenda during its September 20 monthly meeting.
Patrick said that it won't be too much longer before the state fire commission certifies the new department.
Patrick said that he's not aware of any other groups trying to form a new fire department in the area.
"This is going to be a brand new fire department that is started from scratch. It is a good group of people that has gotten together, and has really wanted to show their community that they want to serve the community and do it in a professional way," he added.
He said there are about 20 people involved in the effort to form the new department.
The area includes two elementary schools, Whitley County Middle School, Whitley County High School, Williamsburg Plastics, the Kentucky Consular Center and the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport in addition to several homes.
The new department has a projected location for its base, but nothing has been finalized yet.
Patrick said that the biggest challenge for the new department will be overcoming financial hurdles.
"I think the county is willing to do what they can for us to provide the citizens with good fire protection," he added.
Williamsburg, others helping
"They are stepping right in. It wasn't a very large coverage area to start with," noted Jerry Rains, Kentucky Division of Emergency Management Area 11 Manager.
"Hopefully, we can get this other department started and up and running in a short amount of time."
Williamsburg Fire Chief James Privett said that his department is temporarily assuming much of Three-Point's coverage area until a new fire department can assume operation. The rest will be covered by surrounding volunteer fire departments.
"We have some guys trying to establish another department, which will be called the Whitley County Fire Department if it goes through," Privett said. "Once they get up and running, they will probably take the Three-Point area back over."
Williamsburg Fire and Rescue will now be responding calls on I-75 from the seven-mile marker to mile marker 20, and on US25W to Exit 15.
The fire department will provide all fire protection and will respond to injury accidents for factories and schools located in the Goldbug and Three-Point areas near Exit 15, Privett said.
Williamsburg will also cover Buck Road, Prim Rose, and about 2.5 miles further east on Ky. 92E up to Patterson Creek Volunteer Fire Department's coverage area.
Privett said he expects his department to have the increased coverage area for another month or two.
"We're hoping another department gets back into existence," he said. "Since we are a paid department - when we page out, the guys get paid here - it can cut into the budget pretty heavily if we aren't real careful.
"The call volume is going to go way up. It is going to eat into the budget pretty heavy as we go, but we can work around the budget part right now. We usually have a little extra money left anyway. We are just glad that we are here, and can afford to do it to protect the people."
Patrick said he appreciates Williamsburg's efforts to step-up and help provide fire protection for the 3-Point area.
The fire commission letter cited two reasons for the decertification.
3-Point had less than 12 active firefighters and firefighters had not completed necessary training requirements, according to a letter from Kentucky Fire Commission Executive Director Ronnie Day that was sent to 3-Point Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Crussenberry and to White.
The fire commission made its decision during a July 31 meeting.
Rains said that state fire commission audited the fire department earlier this summer, and it wasn't able to satisfy the audit's requirements.
Rains that the lost of certification means that 3-Point firefighters are no longer covered by workman's compensation insurance, and that the department wouldn't be eligible for fire grants and things of that nature.
White added that 3-Point has not been technically dissolved as a non-profit corporation.
White spoke to Crussenberry by phone Monday about the matter.
White said that he doesn't believe the department will seek to recertify at this point, but he also doesn't anticipate them dissolving the non-profit corporation.
White doesn't currently anticipate more meetings with Crussenberry. He's not sure what will happen to 3-Point's equipment, since the fire department is a private entity.
Crussenberry did not return a phone message left on his cell phone seeking comment on the department's closure.
Not first closure
This isn't the first time that a 3-Point Volunteer Fire Department has closed its doors.
In June 1997, 3-Point Volunteer Fire Department shut down due to financial problems.
A new 3-Point Volunteer Fire Department opened again in February 1998 under the same name, but with a completely different board of directors.
The last closure of any fire department in Whitley County occurred in May 2005 when Western Central Volunteer Fire Department closed.
In October 2010, the Williamsburg-Whitley County Rescue Squad ceased operations.
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