'So much in return' Conway woman's mission is to find a need, then fill itREAD ONLINE
Fire department completes project at main stationOriginally Published October 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 2, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
PEARSON — Covering 50 square miles in rural southwest Cleburne County, the Cove Creek Pearson Fire Department has been serving the community since 1989.
“Our mission is to serve our community to the best of our capabilities,” Chief Doug Deckard said.
The department serves the community from three locations — the main station at 1140 Edgemont Road near Pearson, Station 2 near Diamond Bluff Estates on the lakefront of Greers Ferry Lake, and Station 3, which takes calls from property owners along the South Shore area of Greers Ferry Lake.
Deckard said the Fire Department has 25 people on the roster, and that includes firefighters, first responders, EMTs and paramedics. All are volunteers.
Serving with Deckard as department officers are Kenney Sanders, assistant chief; Jeremy McClung, battalion chief; April Chism, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) captain; and Kendall Richey, captain.
Deckard said the main station at Pearson recently has been renovated and a building added to house up to 10 trucks.
“We built three, 60-by-80-foot drive-through bays,” Deckard said. “This gives us the capability to house more trucks than we’ve ever had before.
“We now have seven trucks. That’s two more than what we had before.”
The trucks include a pumper tanker, a rescue truck, brush trucks, a support pumper truck and support trucks.
Deckard said each of the substations house pumper, tanker and brush trucks.
He said construction on the building began in 2012 and took several months to complete. The firefighters did most of the work on the new building.
“We began remodeling the old bays in February of this year and introduced our new station to the community at an open house on July 6,” Deckard said. “We did the framework and hung the Sheetrock ourselves. We did hire a plumber, an electrician and a Sheetrock-finisher.”
The remodeled space includes two offices, one for the fire chief and one for the training officer; a conference room for board meetings and other small meetings; and a training room.
“We will offer fire-training, EMT and first-responder classes,” said Deckard, who is a trained instructor. He has been a firefighter since 1981, when he was with the Quitman Fire Department, leaving there in 1989 to help start the Cove Creek Pearson Fire Department.
“Most of our people have jobs during the day, so being able to train them here will be a benefit for them,” Deckard said. “We will also have some speakers from out of town offer classes that will be great for the department, the community and even the county.”
A kitchen and dayroom for the firefighters have been added to the remodeled space, as well as bedrooms upstairs for those who sleep over. There is also a safe room for the firefighters who are on duty to use when there are storms in the area, and a mini-dispatch room where they can watch the weather radar and are connected to the Internet via satellite.
Deckard said although it is a volunteer fire department, “our goal is to have someone here as many nights as we can. If someone is already here, that speeds up our response time.”
The Fire Department responds to medical calls, trauma situations and accidents, brush fires and structure fires; it also does traffic control.
“We also do backup for our neighboring fire departments in Hopewell, Rose Bud and Quitman,” Deckard said. “Every other month, we have mutual-aid training with them. We all pool together.”
Deckard said the Fire Department depends on membership dues for its operating budget.
“The majority of our budget — over 65 percent — comes from memberships,” he said. “Dues are $45 a year, and that includes all properties owned by the member in the district. If you haven’t paid your dues and call for service, you can be charged up to $5,000 for our emergency firefighting services.”
Deckard said the fire department has an ISO rating of 6, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. The lower ratings are better.
“Most rural departments have an ISO rating of 9,” he said. “Our Class 6 rating helps members with their homeowners’ insurance, saving them 30 to 40 percent. We are working toward getting an even lower rating.”
The fire chief said the department has billed 1,567 people this year, and 73 percent have paid their membership dues. “Four years ago, we had only 43 percent that paid,” he said.
Deckard said Chism is the interim secretary for the department’s board of directors, and she sends out the notices for the dues.
“She’s got a pretty good mailing list and stays on top of it,” he said.
The Cove Creek Pearson Fire Department has won several awards over the past few years. In 2005 and 2011, it received the Arkansas First Responder Agency of the Year Award and, in 2010, it received the Arkansas Fire/EMS Agency of the Year Award.
“We’ve got a real good group here,” Deckard said.