by Nicole Singleton
Since 1980, the Summit Volunteer Fire Department has provided service to the Summit community. However, with rising costs and a dwindling income, Fire Chief Paula Robertson says the department may be faced with closing its doors leaving the community with a slower 911 response time and an increase in their home insurance premium costs.
“The community needs to be made aware that we provide a vital service and now is the time to help us continue that service,” Robertson said. “We need this community to commit to us so we can keep offering them what they need and deserve.”
According to Robertson, of the 556 households located in the Summit area, only 45 pay their fire dues, a non-mandated and voluntary payment, on their water bill. As of now, the department has an average monthly income of $225 from those dues, however, if half of the 556 households chose to pay their fire dues, the department would make roughly $1,300 monthly.
The department has attempted fund-raisers in the past but did not receive a good response to any of those events. Robertson says she is meeting with her fellow fire- fighters to brainstorm solutions to their financial problems and is also willing to take suggestions from the community on what they can do.
On Sunday, community members attended an open-to-the-public fire personnel meeting and offered some possible solutions including setting up a road block in the coming weeks and organizing a fish fry and car show.
Services provided by the department include response to vehicle, house, grass, and woods fires, wrecks, medical calls, public services, hazmat accidents, and providing mutual aid to neighboring communities of Blountsville, Snead, and Brooksville.
Robertson says it is difficult living in a community without a town council to go to for more funding and instead being forced to scrape up the money wherever they can, but she says she isn’t finished fighting.
The department is struggling most with their insurance costs on their buildings and vehicles, and Robertson says if they could pay their insurance, they wouldn’t be as pressured financially.
According to EMA director Max Armstrong, in the last 20 years, he can not recall a Blount County-based fire department closing. He says a few departments lacked personnel and temporarily were unable to respond to calls, but it wasn’t a financial issue.
However, Armstrong says other fire departments are banding together to aid Summit with expenses and thinks those donations will help keep the doors open.