CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County Fire & Rescue is on track to assume fire protection in areas now served by the Cleveland Fire Department.
The deadline is June 30, when Bradley County's contract for Cleveland fire services ends for fringe zones beyond city limits.
In a recent update to fire board officials, interim fire Chief Troy Spence discussed the department's efforts to ensure a smooth transition with the construction, equipping and staffing of three fire stations.
"We have a lot of moving pieces," Spence said.
Construction of stations at Minnis Road, Dalton Pike and Georgetown Road began recently. Meanwhile, the department has been hiring and training new firefighters since last fall. Twelve are expected to graduate at Lee University on March 3. Six firetrucks also are on order.
The Minnis Road station, near Parkview Elementary School, is the furthest along, having already received a roof, Spence said. However, the driveway's steepness, combined with a hump, make it challenging to back fire engines into the station. Spence said the problem is expected to be resolved with a little engineering, and until then the site's rear driveway can be used.
The Dalton Pike station in the Waterville area has had some delays because of the soil. The costs for handling the problem will be absorbed by the construction company, Spence said.
With the addition of three stations, volunteer firefighters are more important than ever, Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins said.
Bradley County Fire & Rescue maintains a paid firefighting staff of 69 and another 69 volunteers.
"I'd be a lot more comfortable with 100 volunteers," said Spence, who urged interested residents to contact the fire department.
Spence said it soon will be necessary for the department to acquire a reserve fire engine.
He recommended buying a 1998 model engine that has low mileage and would not require too much modification, which costs $79,000. He said it would cost the county only $19,000, because about $60,000 is expected to be left over from the station construction projects.
Fire officials also expressed concern about interaction between county and city fire services once the old agreement ends this summer. Board members questioned whether that meant either department would stop short of its boundaries and let a house burn.
"I don't see us rolling up our hoses," said Spence, who assured board members that Bradley County Fire & Rescue would not let a boundary line stop it from putting out fires or saving lives.