Wake County community rallies to save its rural fire station

Several people turned out for a community meeting on Aug. 9, 2018, to learn more about the future of the Fairview Rural Fire Station 2.
Several people turned out for a community meeting on Aug. 9, 2018, to learn more about the future of the Fairview Rural Fire Station 2. ajohnson@newsobserver.com

Wake County residents are fighting back against a suggestion to close the Fairview Rural Fire Station 2 in the southern part of the county.

County staff have recommended that the more-than-50-year-old station be closed and fire services be moved about a mile down the road to a proposed joint station with Garner Fire Rescue.

Dozens of concerned community members filled the church pews of Fairview Baptist Church on Thursday to learn more about what could happen to the station and to ask questions.

“It’s your home,” said Donald Pierce, a former Fairview fire chief and fire commission member who led the presentation Thursday. “It’s the folks you call in your time of need and the place you go when you need something. We don’t have a city hall here. We don’t have a town. We don’t go to downtown Raleigh. We go to the fire station.”

The Wake County Fire Commission will take up the issue again at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Emergency Services Education Center. A vote isn’t expected that night. The final decision would still be decided by the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria, who serves on the Fire Commission, said the board is still in the fact-finding stage. It would be years before the Garner station would be built and the fire service would change, he said.

“I do not have a formal position on this,” Calabria said. “In fact, I think it’s important to wait until all the facts are developed and I hear from stakeholders and constituents on the question.”

Fairview Fire Station 2, one of two stations that respond in the Ten Ten Fire District, is near the intersection of Ten Ten Road and Lake Wheeler Road. The proposed Garner Fire Station 5 would be near the intersection of Ten Ten Road and U.S. 401.

The Garner Fire Service would have a contract with the county to provide service to a portion of the Ten Ten Fire Insurance District, which spans 24 square miles and more than 15,000 acres, meaning the county would pay for a portion of the employee salary at the Garner station.

The move could save the county $500,000 in annual operating costs, according to Fire Services Director Nick Campasano, who added that there would be no impact to resident’s fire insurance costs. If the move goes forward and Garner’s rating doesn’t improve, it could mean slightly higher insurance costs for businesses and commercial properties.

Wake County is still investigating the impact of the Garner station to fire and EMS response times for properties in the district, Campasano said. But Pierce said in his presentation Thursday that response times would increase drastically based on their estimates.

Several residents shared stories of how the volunteers at the fire station had impacted their lives. Others were angry and asked why they weren’t included in the discussion earlier.

“The biggest thing that upsets me is the county is only looking at the dollars and they’ve done no study, up to this point, of how the citizens would be impacted,” said Doug Smith, who spoke during the meeting. “They have not looked at response times. I will shut up and I will tell them to go ahead and close down Fairview tomorrow if they can prove to me that by doing this, building Garner station 5 and tearing down Fairview No. 2, that it will improve service for more people in the area.

“But they haven’t done a study. They don’t know that’s the case. And everything I’ve seen says that’s not the case.”

Anna Johnson; 919-829-4807; @anna_m_johnson