One way or another, some property owners in the northern part of Baldwin Borough will probably have a different fire company responsible for protecting them soon. They just don't know who they are—or when that will change.
The Becks Run Volunteer Fire Department, which shares jurisdiction of north Baldwin with Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1, is in danger of being eliminated by borough officials, or at the very least, forced into a merger with Baldwin Independent.
Borough officials are considering taking a large chunk of Becks Run Fire's service area away since much of that area is actually closer to the Baldwin Independent station on Churchview Avenue than it is to Becks Run's. (The Becks Run station sits at the very northern tip of the borough near the Becks Run Road-East Carson Street intersection.)
The borough is considering a new fire response plan, in the name of public safety, that would do away with existing service area maps and call for the station closest to a fire to respond to it first. That plan would affect all four of the borough's fire stations—Becks Run, Baldwin Independent, Option Independent Fire Company on Streets Run Road and South Baldwin Volunteer Fire Company on McAnulty Road.
In addition to a new service area practice, annual borough funding of the four stations may change soon, as well, shifting from the existing practice of an equal four-way split of $164,000 ($41,000 each) to four different amounts (still to be determined but probably less than $2,000 for Becks Run) based on how many structures in the borough are actually closest to each station.
"This past budget cycle, when there was a lot of discussion about (fire) departments wanting some more money," Baldwin Borough Manager John Barrett said, "it really got us thinking about, 'Is it really fair and equitable to take our contribution and cut it four ways when you have four departments of varying sizes responding to a much different number of calls (and that have) different responsibilities in their district?'"
Becks Run would be hit hardest in the borough by the new funding split, as its response area would dramatically shrink under the new service area plan—rough estimates showing over 90 percent of its area being sent to Baldwin Independent—resulting in a significant loss of funding that could force a closure or a merger of the two stations. And even without new service maps, Barrett said, borough officials are still strongly considering altering the amount of money that each station receives from the borough based on that station's existing service area map. And Becks Run's area is the smallest in the borough.
Barrett said that the impetus to review the borough's fire safety practices comes from a free study offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development of which Baldwin officials recently took advantage.
The result of the study was a recommendation that Baldwin should merge all of its fire stations—equipment, personnel, et al.—into one fire company, but Barrett said that borough officials are probably not going to go that far, instead perhaps ultimately settling on establishing just two companies—one for north Baldwin and the other for south Baldwin. But that is still to be determined, as well.
For now, a merger of north Baldwin's two stations into one company—or the elimination of the small Becks Run station—is more feasible.
Barrett said that borough officials, including fire chiefs, will meet again soon to deliberate on options for Becks Run. Even if a merger is agreed upon, decisions will need to be made over what to do with combined fire equipment and the actual Becks Run Fire building.
"There's a lot that needs to get ironed out," Barrett said.
Should Becks Run Fire merge or close? Should it be left alone? Give us your opinion in the comments section below and vote in our poll above.
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