Ellis County Rural Fire Chief Darin Myers spoke to the Ellis County Commission on Monday about consolidating Rural Fire Company 3 and 7 with other companies due to a lack of volunteers, aging equipment, lack of training and an inadequately heated garage at Company 3, which causes the lines and gauges on the truck to freeze.

“They are currently not being recognized by the insurance services offices as being fire departments,” Myers said. “There are many more criteria that the National Fire Protection Association recommends to be considered a fire department” that’s not being met.

The companies would be combined with neighboring districts, and the commission could look at redistricting. Company 3 is located in northeast Ellis County, and 7 is located in southeast Ellis County.

There are nine districts, and the two would be closed.

No. 3 no longer has volunteers. At the other, there is also an issue with volunteers.

It’s a lot different than it was 20 years ago because with both parents working, people often don’t have time to volunteer, Myers said.

The trucks would be consolidated into other districts. However, the trucks are 40 years old, the oldest in the county. The typical service life of a truck is 20 years, Myers said. Not only are there safety issues because of age, there are pending costs for repair.

Already, “anytime there is structure fires, multiple companies respond,” he said. Tankers come from Victoria, Ellis and Hays.

The insurance services office rating of these companies is 10, Myers said. The ISO rating is used by insurance companies to determine insurance costs and risk, rating fire departments on training, equipment and water availability. The best rating is a 1, which few departments achieve, and the worst is a 10.

Residents who live in those areas might actually see insurance rates come down when they are not listed under the nonexistent fire department, Myers said.

Myers said even if volunteers step up to the plate, it takes several years to adequately train them.

In other business:

• The commission approved hiring two replacement positions in the public works department.

• The county attorney will draw up a resolution on vaping. Staff has reported some issues have developed with vaping on county property. Smoking is already prohibited statutorialy.

• The county attorney will draw up resolutions allowing for a conditional-use permit for a gravel sand pit at the north end of the county as requested by public works. A public hearing has already taken place.

• To save wear and tear on big fire trucks, the commission approved the purchase of a 2006 Ford F-550. The cost is $47,500. The money will come from the special machinery fund. It will be used on rescue calls.