New Members Mean New Opportunities for Huntington Fire Department

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Four new members might not sound like much, but Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham says the four rookies sworn in Monday will mean a difference when it comes to your fire safety in the city of Huntington.

Two of the new members are replacing positions that already existed.

The two other positions are brand new, which will allow the Fire Prevention Bureau to be reinstated. The group that worked on prevention and arson investigations was cut for budget reasons in 2009.

Eastham says that had a negative impact on the community.

"We had an outbreak of arsons from the lack of doing internal investigations where we work with the Huntington Police Department,"
Eastham said.

The Chief says these new positions are allowing them to get back on track with this type of work.

"When we went back to doing that, we've since been able to make four arrests, and there are some convictions that have already happened," Eastham said. "So that is why arsons are down."

Unfortunately, so are the number of building inspections.

"We are very behind on that," Eastham said. "We are going to start utilizing some of our engine companies to do company level inspections, which means they will do a quick walk through and make sure if they see anything."

If there are issues, the bureau will follow up, but this new practice will mean the fire fighters already know the lay of the land.

"It doesn't reduce the amount of inspections that need to be done by the bureau, but it does offset that a little bit by allowing an engine company to be there. They can know it is somewhat safe, it's been looked at," Eastham explained.

Having those fire companies go check out buildings will allow them to create maps they are working to put that on a computer system that will be available on the fire trucks so they can look before they even get to the scene.

At the end of the day for taxpayers, Eastham said it means a department that is not worn thin and money that is going toward fire prevention.

"We will be working people full time instead of working someone overtime," he said. "We are at the saturation point where our people are so overworked by working these extra hours now they are becoming tired, and we don't want to become complacent."

Eastham added, "It makes Huntington a better place because we are going to utilize our resources where they need to be."

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