These changes leave a lot of area for other fire departments to cover.
“I felt bad that there’s another municipality that essentially took action without really weighing the cost and benefits of changing fire companies,” said Kim Houser.
Houser is the attorney representing the volunteer firefighters in Bellevue. He said there’s been a recent rash of councils voting to de-certify volunteer fire companies.
Just recently, McKees Rocks got rid of its volunteer department. Bellevue’s situation is different because the paid firefighters will still continue to handle the calls, but any additional aid will come from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
“A lot of people are hearing that we don’t have a fire department at all and we do,” said Amanda Sloane, vice president of Bellevue Council. “Their first responders are still going to come from this building in the middle of Bellevue.”
Sloane voted to de-certify the volunteer department because of what she calls a lack of oversight with decisions the volunteer fire company was making.
“They are all brave. They keep our community safe,” Sloane said. “We’re thankful for everything they have ever done for us. I’d say if the problems exists it’s within their leadership.”
Glenn Pritchard was appointed chief of the volunteer company in January of this year. Prior to that, Pritchard served on Bellevue Council where he said he and Sloane didn’t always see eye to eye.
“I believe a lot of the ill intent with the fire department stems from my time on Bellevue Council,” Pritchard said. “We had disagreements politically while I was elected.”
“It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, why would you not have a volunteer? You know Emsworth has a volunteer fire company that we support,” said Alma Fincke.
Neighbors are also confused, as it appears the decision to de-certify happened without adequate community input.
“I do apologize if our messaging hadn’t been clear this whole time, but we had stated publicly during meetings that we were exploring the future of their fire company working with our fire company here in Bellevue,” Sloane said. “It was unexpected that it was going to make the recommendation from the committee to vote immediately for the decertification but it needed to happen.”
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