Fire district realignment addresses rural growth

Published on February 09, 2022

Fireman Walking Through Woods That Were Recently On Fire

Cabarrus County officials are discussing a fire district realignment plan that improves medical and fire emergency response times in unincorporated areas of southern Cabarrus.

The plan impacts approximately 1,500 homes between Harrisburg and Midland.

County Fire Marshal Jacob Thompson presented the plan at the Board of Commissioners February Work Session. His office will spend the next month informing residents of the change ahead of a March 21 public hearing and possible vote. If approved, the realignment would take place July 1.

In North Carolina, fire districts are funded by fire taxes paid by property owners within the district. County commissioners set service boundaries and tax rates for districts in unincorporated Cabarrus County, while the County’s Fire Marshal and Emergency Management offices provide support to those districts.

In 2020, Cabarrus County commissioned North Carolina Fire Chief Consulting to assess fire service deployment efficiency, Insurance Services Office (ISO) inspection improvements and response times. Staff used the study to find cost-effective ways to improve service areas. Among the findings was a recommendation to modify local fire district lines to match growth.

Cabarrus County is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. Rural development has added concentrated pockets of homes on previously uninhabited land and did not require life- and property-saving medical, fire and/or police response.

Officials used the County’s GIS technology to track new homes and evaluate how distance affects agency response. The County then presented the closest-unit response data to the fire departments and the public, which shows redistricting improves response times.

Thompson has seen firsthand the work local fire districts put into developing skills, training and acquiring/maintaining equipment. The departments gaining houses under the realignment have all earned an ISO Class 4 rating. That score reflects how prepared an area is for a fire. The lower a department rates on the 10-point scale, the better prepared they are.

“All our departments provide outstanding response, but in public safety, seconds count,” Thompson said. “We have an option that addresses growth while improving service. It’s in the best interest of property owners that we keep pace with Cabarrus County’s changing landscape and make adjustments along the way.”

If the recommendation moves forward, it will change the number of homes paying taxes within the affected districts. Homeowners within the realignment areas will need to pay a new fire tax amount. Current tax rates are: Flowes Store at 7 cents, Allen at 7.5 cents, Georgeville at 9.2 cents, Midland Rural at 10 cents and Harrisburg Rural at 15 cents. The rate applies to every $100 of property value.

In the coming weeks, Thompson and his team will reach out to affected property owners and distribute resources to help communicate the changes. 

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