About 10 residents came out to a coffee gathering to hear Canton Fire Chief Dean Floyd talk about his department, its training levels and its plans for the near future.
The meeting, in the City Council chambers at City Hall, was organized by Canton City Councilman Bill Bryan.
The meeting came just one week after Floyd publicly responded to a letter sent by County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens.
Ahrens pointed out in his email what he believes are the benefits of a possible merger between Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services and the Canton Fire Department. The chairman said the issues are providing the best fire and emergency protection for city residents, how to “best allocate capital funds to provide improved service” and improving training for Canton firefighters.
On Friday, Floyd started out with a brief overview about the department, including the number on staff, how many of his employees are paramedics and EMTs and what services they offer to the community.
Former council member Lester Cantrell, who retired from the council in 2009, was also on hand, as well as former fire chief Bob Junk and former council member Pat Tanner.
Cantrell also asked Floyd questions about the fire department, mainly to allow the chief to inform residents about its programs.
“I want everybody to know that the Canton Fire Department … is doing their job,” Cantrell said.
Floyd also informed residents he believed the city can improve its ISO, or Insurance Service Office, rating of 4. The ISO system is used to rate how well fire departments serve their area. The scale runs from one to 10, with one being the best fire service. The ratings are used to calculate homeowners’ insurance costs.
The department, he said, is scheduled to be reviewed in December, and it can take up to eight months for the results to come back.
The ISO rating of 3, he added is “achievable.”
“Everyone will see a big impact on their (home) insurance,” he said of the city moving from a Class 4 to Class 3 rating.
The city of Woodstock was notified it retained its Class 3 rating earlier this year while Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services maintained it split rating of 5/9.
Floyd said the city earlier this year hired a consultant, who calculated the city is 1½ points from keeping the 4 rating.
Since the consultant’s report, Floyd said the city has taken the steps to hire additional firefighters, and has begun routine testing of its fire truck pumpers and performing load testing on its ladders.
“I feel comfortable with a 4 and my hopes are that we’ll go to a 3,” he said, adding the Class 3 rating could entice more companies to move into the city.
Floyd was asked by one member of the audience to address the push for consolidation by some on the council, but shied away saying it was a “political issue.”
However, that didn’t stop County Commissioner Harry Johnston from weighing in.
Johnston, who represents District 1 — which includes Canton — said the talks about consolidation were not to compare and contrast each department, but were “purely about economics,” referencing the need for two new fire stations. He noted he understood why some on the City Council may have felt Ahrens’ letter was “casting aspersions” onto Canton’s fire department, but added his colleague did not intent to do so. He also said it would be “disingenuous” for the county to claim its fire department was better than Canton as the city does have a better ISO rating than Cherokee.
Floyd, who has been a firefighter for the city and the county for more than 30 years, added he didn’t think the relationship between the county and city fire departments had been soured due to the talks.
The men and women of both agencies, he said, don’t let their jurisdictions get in the way of doing their duties on the scene of a fire.
“When the men and women get there, you can’t tell (the departments) apart,” he said.