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Heated Debate Over Fire Safety In North Versailles

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NORTH VERSAILLES (KDKA) – The North Versailles Commissioners voted to approve a new ordinance about fire safety in the township.

But some critics say the ordinance doesn’t provide enough protection.

The ordinance requires all three fire departments in the township to be called to fires.

“My husband was once a volunteer firefighter for Wall,  I’ve seen what those guys go through, I’ve seen the training he went through, I’ve seen the fires he fought, and I’m truly grateful that we still have a fire company there at the corner of my street,” said a concerned citizen at the meeting.

The new ordinance also requires all firefighters to take four classes in essentials of firefighting, structural burn training and a hazardous materials class.

Some are worried that commissioners are lowering the training standards and eliminating background checks. The commissioners say additional training is encouraged, just not required.

Others were worried fire equipment may not be up to code.

“As far as equipment,” said Commission Vice President Frank Bivins, “it must be checked regularly by the chief or qualified personnel, there must be record keeping of all equipment, so this township is satisfied with the equipment of the three fire companies be property maintained and serviced, and a safer operation for effective firefighting.”

The commission approved the ordinance at the end of last night’s meeting. It also requires all funding be spent on “true” firefighting services. And the ordinance gives the commissioners the right to request an audit of the fire companies, to make sure money is being spent correctly.

Commissioners can place a fire company on probation, hold tax funding, completely forfeit tax funding or even completely discontinue a fire company if an audit reveals any irregularities.

Another issue is whether or not the Fire Chief should be required to live in North Versailles. Commissioner George Beswick and Commission President George Thompson argued the point last night.

Beswick: “It says the chief has to live in the township, why does our volunteer fire chief have to live in the township, when the police chief doesn’t?”

Thompson: “Because he’s making money decisions, our fire chief is, the police chief isn’t, he should have input, he should be from North Versailles.”

Beswick: “Well, I disagree.”

Before the meeting, the Fire Department of North Versailles sent a letter to residents asking them to ask commissioners why their safety was being jeopardized. They are worried about the elimination of most training classes for firefighters and the closing of the Green Valley fire station.

Commission President George Thompson responded, saying Green Valley will stay open as a substation.

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