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Jefferson County Fire Service

The JCFS is not a distinct fire department per se but an umbrella organization coordinating cooperation between the many disparate fire districts within the county that by their proximity must work together efficiently. JCFS does not have a chief or any type of hierarchy and has no binding executive or legislative authority over its membership. Instead it comprises various committees and associations that specialize in areas that affect the fire service in Jefferson County as a whole.

 

Most of the Jefferson County fire districts wear the Jefferson County Fire distinctive insignia patch on the left shoulder of their uniforms.

 

Several combined teams exist to provide specialized service to all of Jefferson County and on request from other area agencies. These teams are composed of members of the various member districts; leadership staff is developed from within the teams. Each member operates under the authority of their parent district but all team participants collectively operate together under a unified command system unique to the team.

 

The Louisville Metro Hazardous Materials Team (HAZMAT) is made up of members from Louisville Fire & Rescue, the suburban fire districts as well as Louisville Metro EMS and the Louisville Metro Health Department. Metro HAZMAT is organized into three teams.

 

The Jefferson County Trench Rescue Team was started in the mid 1990's and is the oldest special response team in Jefferson County. It is comprised of members of every Suburban fire district, Louisville Fire & Rescue and Louisville Metro EMS.

 

The Jefferson County Water Rescue Team is comprised of firefighters from several Suburban Fire Districts. Their mission is to provide for the rescue of victims who are unable of self rescue from water emergencies involving moving water, wide spread flooding, or searches in streams along rivers or even man made retention/detention basins. Surface ice rescues are another occasional hazard that the team is capable of responding to.

 

Louisville Metro Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR). A truly "metro" organization, this team includes firefighters from JCFS, Louisville Division of Fire, and Shively Fire & Rescue as well as personnel from other public safety agencies.

 

Before 1947 Jefferson County Fiscal Court operated the Jefferson County Fire Department. The department operated three engine companies from three stations equally spread across the unincorporated county land.

 

A chapter of Kentucky's codified set of laws, the Kentucky Revised Statutes allows for the incorporation of fire protection taxing districts in otherwise unincorporated areas. As the population of Jefferson County grew after the Second World War small communities began to believe the services of the county fire department were wholly inadequate for their growing needs. These communities secured the votes necessary to establish fire protection districts. The districts levied a tax based on a property owner's total real estate worth and allowed for more money to be available exclusively for fire protection. Eventually 21 separate districts were formed, completely covering all of Jefferson County outside of the Cities of Louisville and Shively. Since it was now unnecessary Jefferson County Fiscal Court disbanded the county fire department completely in 1964.

 

The 2003 merger of Louisville and Jefferson County governments did little to affect the Jefferson County fire districts. Since the merger other non-official names for JCFS have been coined such as "Louisville Metro Suburban Fire" and the "Suburban Division, Louisville Metro Fire". Since Louisville Metro Government has no direct control over 19 of the 20 fire departments inside its boundaries, to refer to any fire department in the area as "metro" would be misleading and inaccurate. Although held by some[who?] to be pejorative, the term "Suburban Fire" is used exclusively by Metro Government to refer to Jefferson County Fire Service member districts.

 

The core of JCFS is made up of several associations representing different aspects of the fire service within Jefferson County.

 

Firefighter's Association The Jefferson County Firefighters Association serves to advance the interests of the firefighting members of the various districts in matters that pertain to personnel.

 

Chief's Association The Jefferson County Fire Chiefs Association meets regularly to direct the other organizations in the completion of their respective missions. The Chiefs are the parent association and provide oversight to the Inspectors, Instructors, Firefighters Associations & Special Operations Teams.

 

Instructor's Association The Jefferson County Fire Instructor's Association helps to pool county-wide resources for training and continuing education. The JCFIA also sponsors and conducts the large annual Jefferson County Fire School.

 

Trustee's Association The Jefferson County Fire Trustees Association promotes inter-agency cooperation between the various boards of trustees of the districts for matters of constitutionality, legal affairs, and general guidance.

 

Fire Inspector's Association The Jefferson County Fire Inspector's Association promotes public fire safety education, fire inspectors training and education, and discusses solutions to fire inspections and uniform fire code applications that arise from new technologies.

 

Although not fire protection districts organized under Chapter 75 of the KRS the City of Shively Fire Department and Louisville Division of Fire often participate with JCFS in training.

 

The primary purpose of JCFS is to coordinate help and cooperation between the fire districts in fire suppression activities. The member district of JCFS have, through the years, integrated their response plans with one another to the extent that the districts de facto operate as one on the fireground. Newly adopted dispatching protocols disregard traditional district boundaries and direct the response of the closest, most appropriate fire equipment to a call for help. It is not uncommon to see fire apparatus from two or more districts on the scene of a routine fire call. Interoperability between the JCFS districts and Louisville Division of Fire is informal and the two organizations do not participate in the unified chain of command when operating together.

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