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China Grove facing probation after failing part of inspection

CHINA GROVE — China Grove’s Fire Department is facing a 12-month probation from the State Fire Marshal’s Office after failing an initial portion of its latest inspection.

The probation comes after the fire department allegedly responded to fires with fewer firefighters or trucks than required by the state. A.C. Daniels, inspections supervisor for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said at least four people and one fire engine must respond to each call. During a November inspection, Daniels said, there were at least two instances where the fire department didn’t meet the state standards.

As a result, Daniels said the fire department would have to submit copies of all fire reports to the State Fire Marshal’s Office for the next 12 months. He said the probationary period would also require the department to draft a plan to adequately respond to all calls.

A violation of the probation could result in the fire department no longer being certified by the state as an official fire department, Daniels said. An example of a violation would be if the department failed to submit its fire reports.

“If they refuse to send reports, then they would automatically lose their grade,” he said.

During the probation, Daniels said the fire rating for China Grove would remain unchanged. Currently, the department has a 6/9s rating. Inside of the city, the fire rating is 6, Daniels said. The 9s rating applies outside of the city limits, though any house or business within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant is also a class six, Daniels said.

“If they meet the minimum response, then the results of the grading will be issued at that time,” Daniels said about the fire department’s probation.

Daniels couldn’t disclose the exact rating the China Grove Fire Department received during its latest inspection, but said it wasn’t worse than the current 6/9s rating.

When asked about the city’s violations, China Grove Town Manager Ken Deal said the criteria could have been met, but if a call wasn’t documented an inspector would look at the call as if it didn’t happen. Deal said that under the watch of former fire chief Jeff Gledhill, the fire department’s records weren’t as detailed as they could or should have been.

Daniels confirmed that if records weren’t kept adequately, it could have affected the town’s recent inspection.

Gledhill resigned in October, citing personal reasons.

The Salisbury Post attempted to contact Gledhill for comments twice. The first time, Gledhill declined to speak on the record about his tenure as fire chief. No one came to the door the second time.

See Thursday’s Salisbury Post for more details. 

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