Thursday, April 12, 2007

Commissioner, Firefighter Denies Claims Of Slow Response To Fire In Minority Neighborhood

(Right) Commissioner Will Chandler (center) says race never plays a role in responses times by Benson firemen. (Below) Phyllis Alford addressed the council this week after hearing rumors it took firemen 30 minutes to respond. The actual response time was 8 minutes. Photos courtesy The Daily Record

A Benson woman has questioned the response time of the Benson Fire Department to a house fire in her neighborhood. Town Commissioner Will Chandler, a 32-year veteran of the fire department, said race has never played an issue in crews responding to fire calls. Phyllis Alford appeared before the Benson Town Council this week saying she had heard it took firemen 30 minutes to arrive at a house fire on East King Circle and when they arrived, they found a broken fire hydrant out front. Chandler said fire departments are heavily regulated and when they are dispatched by the Johnston County 911 Center, they only receive the address and whether the structure is occupied. “When we get a page and we’re busting our butts, it does not say white, black, etc.” Commissioner Chandler told Alford. Chandler went on to say firefighters were being called “white MF’s” by a bystander as they attempted to douse the flames, which were already showing when they arrived. Johnston County 911 Director Jason Barbour told WMPM the response time to the March 20 call by Benson firefighters was 8 minutes and 16 seconds. The department’s average response time to every call they answered in 2006 was 8 minutes and 19 seconds. Town officials heard concerns about a broken fire hydrant following the house fire, but utility officials found the hydrant to be working properly. Fire hydrants are tested twice each year in Benson, Chandler told Alford. Mayor Jerry McLamb said Benson had one of the best fire departments in the nation.


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