This afternoon two northern Wake County fire departments will officially become one.
A 4 p.m. ceremony will mark the final step of merging the Falls Fire Department into the Wake Forest Fire Department.
“We really feel like this is a great business decision for Falls and for Wake Forest,” said Wake Forest Fire Chief Ron Early, who will be chief of the merged force.
There had been talk of a merger for years between the mostly volunteer Falls company and the larger Wake Forest operation. The crews often worked together in their neighboring coverage area.
Last summer, the two departments, which both operate with county funding, signed an official contract that began a consolidation period.
“I refer to that as the dating period and now this is the marriage,” said Falls Fire Chief Chris Wilson. “We’ve had plenty of time to think this through and work this out.”
Wilson, who will become chief of volunteer operations for the newly combined department, says the merger makes good business sense. He expects equipment and training costs to be reduced.
“Throughout this process, we’ve had to look at ways to save money and continue to improve the service and the delivery to the citizens we protect,” Wilson said. “There are long-term benefits and not just money savings.”
The administration is working together now to increase the department’s insurance grading, which could one day mean less expensive insurance premiums for homeowners.
Wilson says there will be no change for residents who dial 911 with a fire emergency. “The trucks will look the same. The people will look the same, and the closest station will respond, just like now,” he said.
Personnel will be on-duty 24 hours a day. Paid firefighters will staff all the fire houses and will be supplemented on nights and weekends by a combined pool of nearly 60 volunteers.
The Wake Forest department has three fire stations. The Falls station, which is on Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh, will remain open but will become known as Wake Forest Fire Station #5.
Wilson says that doesn’t mean the fire company at Falls will lose its identity or its nickname. “The Falls station will still be the home of the River Rats, nothing will ever change that,” he said.
“We definitely do not want to lose anyone from Falls,” Early said. “It’s critical to us to keep everyone, because without the people, this isn’t going to work. There’s a lot of history and tradition there.”
Wake Forest Station #4 is in the planning stages and could be open in a few years. The administration wants to build that station in the northwest portion of the Wake Forest coverage area to improve response times in a growing part of Wake County.