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Fire chiefs dispute EMS study conclusion

Contrary to a consultant’s report, Orange County’s fire chiefs say there is room for Emergency Services ambulances at rural fire departments.

Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said several valid points came out of a $28,000, two-part draft study of EMS and 911 Center capabilities and needs. But there are other points with which he, as an experienced firefighter and chief, takes serious issue, he said.

A major problem in the past has been stationing ambulances at fire departments based on a “gentleman’s agreement,” he said. There were no expectations and no contracts, so there also was no agreement about who pays when something breaks.

“I think it’s completely unreasonable for this county to build nine EMS stations across the county when you could easily add bays to stations,” Jones said. “The key is to set expectations early and put it all in writing.”

Consultant Steve Allen, of Solutions for Local Government, told the commissioners in August that it could cost the county more than $15.6 million over the next 10 years to modernize EMS operations and the 911 Call Center, from adding more employees to buying more ambulances and building dedicated EMS stations.

Allen and an EMS workgroup are receiving public comment and will make revisions before the commissioners consider the final report.

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