New Volunteer Fire Department Proposed in McMinn County - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New Volunteer Fire Department Proposed in McMinn County

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MCMINN COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - In the coming weeks McMinn County could see a brand new fire department. If approved by McMinn County Commissioners, the new volunteer fire department named North McMinn County Fire and Rescue Team would serve District 9.

"If the new one comes into existence there will be no more Union Grove Volunteer Fire Department, it will be dissolved," said J.W. McPhail, County Commissioner.

County officials say it's been a tough year for the Union Grove Volunteer Fire Department. In January, the chief's family-owned car shop was destroyed by an arson fire and a former treasurer was arrested for stealing almost $5,000 from the department's fund raised money.

Commissioner McPhail says the recent fire at the fire chief's business located next to the fire hall, was a wake-up call.

"Some of the fire departments responded to it and was going to use Union Grove's fire truck and they made statements that there was ice and no water in the tank," said McPhail.

Union Grove Volunteer Fire Department has been serving District 9 for more than 35 years.

"It would be heart breaking to see it happen because the community is the one that's going to hurt," said Fire Chief Alvin Shoemaker, Union Grove Fire Dept.

Chief Shoemaker says it takes his crews an average 5-8 minutes to get to a scene. However, the county pulled it's fire engine and brush truck from the property once investigators confirmed the car-shop was attacked by an arsonist.

"We can't support our community, by the time we go get a truck and get it out of the building and get it to the fire we're 20 minutes in," said Chief Shoemaker.

Shoemaker says firefighters have been unable to respond to at least five emergency calls since the county removed the trucks. 

Residents say they fear a new department located even farther, would make emergency response times even longer. For now surrounding fire departments are filling the gap.

"They can be to the center of the 9th District, in 20 minutes," said McPhail. " I assure you there is protection. Niota and Clearwater are both top rated fire departments they have good, dedicated people who will respond to any fire anytime, anywhere."

"It's not this group against this group and that's what it has turned into and it's sad because it has put the whole community at risk," said Debbie Tilley, Union Grove Fire Dept.

J.W. McPhail says a resolution recognizing North McMinn County Fire and Rescue Team will be presented for approval during the next county commission meeting Feb 16. 

Commissioners say anyone that is a qualified responder would be welcome to join the new department.

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