Helping Bellaire As Firefighters

Bellaire officials’ previous effort to establish a volunteer fire department ended badly. A second attempt now has limited time to succeed.

For more than a decade, the village has paid the Neffs Fire Department to provide fire and emergency ambulance coverage in Bellaire. That has cost village taxpayers $70,000 a year.

But last week, Bellaire officials agreed to terminate that arrangement, effective July 30. Council members agreed to form a volunteer fire department in Bellaire. A chief, William Swoyer, already has been chosen.

Bellaire Village Administrator Dan Marling told our reporter the break was purely “a business transaction.” Saving money, in part to offset a projected budget deficit of $117,000 this year, may be at the heart of the matter.

But money was the question in 2003 when Bellaire disbanded its own paid fire department. Spending for it was more than $400,000 a year.

Village officials that year decided it would be better to establish a volunteer fire unit. That idea fizzled out quickly when not enough people volunteered to staff the department. Failure prompted Bellaire officials to enter into a contract with the Neffs unit.

Those trying again this year do not start from the proverbial square one. The fire department building in Bellaire that had been staffed part-time by Neffs personnel is available for use. So are two fire trucks and an ambulance purchased by the village and kept at that location.

But that appears to be the easy part. Finding enough volunteers and ensuring they are trained adequately will be more challenging, as officials of existing departments understand.

Here’s hoping village officials have better luck attracting volunteers than they did in 2003. But hope, of course, will not be enough. So, if you are a Bellaire resident willing and able to help your neighbors out by serving as a volunteer firefighter, we urge you to sign up.