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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Clarence Nelson has no way to see into the future.
That’s why Nelson, the chief of the Blair Volunteer Fire Department, is keeping his comments low key about two paid firefighters joining the county payroll.
“It’s a wait-and-see thing, really,” Nelson said. “We’ll just have to see how it works out.”
The recently passed Roane County budget included funding for the firefighters.
One day the county hopes to field a full-fledged paid department. This is apparently a step in that process.
“I’ve been pushing for this for a long time, so I’m looking forward to them getting started,” Emergency Management Director Howie Rose said.
The county took some property-tax money out of the rural debt service fund and added it to the urban services fund to pay for the new positions.
The county could continue to add more paid positions in the years ahead.
Rose said the benefits of that should include decreased response times, more manpower to fight fires and lower ISO ratings — which can mean homeowners’ insurance savings to county residents.
The county has five volunteer departments that fight fires and provide other emergency services in the rural areas.
The county commission passed a resolution in June 2008 to start the county fire department. At the time, some of the volunteer chiefs expressed displeasure with the move.
Rose said he believes the paid firefighters and volunteers will work well together.
He said the two who were hired, Josh Taylor and Matt Johnson, had been volunteers with the Midtown Volunteer Fire Department.
Rose said Taylor and Johnson will be stationed at Midtown because of its central location in the county.