CHAPTER 7. COUNTY COMMISSIONS AND OFFICERS.
ARTICLE 17. COUNTY FIRE BOARDS.
The Legislature finds that fire protection and saving lives
and property are important to the health and welfare of the
citizens of the state and that it is desirable for county
governments to provide fire protection services to county
As used in this article unless the context clearly indicates
(1) "User" means any person to whom fire service is made
available under the provisions of this article.
(2) "County commission" means the county commission or
tribunal in lieu thereof of every county within the state of West
Virginia as provided in section nine, article nine of the
constitution of the state of West Virginia.
(3) "County fire association" means an association created in
section three of this article.
(4) "County fire board" means that board created in section
six of this article.
(5) "Fire service" means an organization that provides fire
prevention and fire protection to a community, the members of such
an organization or the fire fighting profession as a whole.
(6) "Qualified voters" means registered voters who reside in
the affected fire service district and are users or prospective
users of the fire prevention and fire protection services provided
by the fire service under the provisions of this article.
§7-17-3. County fire association creation; prohibiting entrance by
a municipality maintaining a full time paid fire
The fire departments within each county are hereby authorized
to create and establish a county fire association, hereinafter
referred to as "fire association." The county fire association is
created to discuss fire protection services to address fire
protection problems at the county level.
Upon the creation of a fire association, any full-time paid
fire department located in a municipality, as defined in section
nine, article fifteen, chapter eight of this code is excluded from
the provisions of this article.
However, this provision shall not prohibit the county
commission or the fire board with the approval of the county
commission from contracting with any municipal fire department for
fire protection services rendered to the county.
§7-17-4. Management and control vested in the county fire
The management and control of the fire association, its
property, operations, business and affairs shall be lodged with the
representatives from each state fire commission recognized fire
department forming the fire association. For the purpose of
forming the membership of the fire association, each fire
department shall appoint one representative, by a majority vote of
the members of the fire department, to serve on the fire
That in the event three or less fire
departments form the fire association each fire department shall
elect two representatives, by a majority vote of the members of
each fire department, to serve on the fire association: Provided,
That in the event only one fire department forms the fire
association the members of the fire department shall conduct the
fire association's business. The members of the fire association
shall serve for a term of three years with the initial appointments
beginning on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred
eighty-four. If a member resigns or for any other reason his
position terminates during his term of membership, a successor
shall be elected by majority vote of the members of the represented
department to fill out the remainder of the vacated term. Members
in office at the expiration of their respective terms shall
continue to serve until their successors have been appointed and
§7-17-5. Sale or lease of property; reversion of assets upon
The fire association shall fix and determine the terms and
conditions of any property or equipment to be leased or sold by the
fire association. Upon dissolution of the fire association, all of
its assets and property contributed by the county commission shall
revert to and become the property of the county for which the board
§7-17-6. County fire board creation and management; membership;
terms of members; vacancies.
The county fire association upon two-thirds vote of its
membership shall submit an application to the county commission
requesting that the county commission create the county fire board.
Upon receipt of such application the county commission may by
majority vote create such a fire board and if so created the county
fire board, if authorized, shall be a corporation. The county fire
board shall establish the funding priorities for the fire
departments forming the fire association and shall present a list
of those priorities to the county commission. However, no fire
department or representative of a fire department who is a member
of the fire board or fire association may apply for county funding
from the county commission except as provided for in subsection
seven, section ten of this article. The bylaws of the county fire
board and standards of operation of the fire association shall be
submitted to, and approved by, the state fire commission and county
The county fire board shall consist of seven members. The
initial appointment to the county fire board shall begin on the
first day of July, one thousand nine hundred eighty-four. One
county commissioner, chosen by the county commission, shall serve
on the board. The county commission shall make the initial
appointments to the fire board so that one third of the fire
association members and the citizen members to be so appointed shall be appointed for a term of one year, one third of the fire
association members and the citizen members shall be appointed for
a term of two years and one third of the fire association members
and the citizen members shall be appointed for a term of three
years. As the term of each such initial appointee expires, the
successor to fill the vacancy created by such expired term shall be
appointed by the county commission for a term of three years. The
county fire association shall submit to the county commission the
names of five members of the fire association, three of whom shall
be appointed by the county commission to serve a term of three
years. Such members are limited to two consecutive terms. Three
citizen members shall be appointed by the county commission to
serve on the board. The citizen members may not be associated with
fire service or the county commission. The citizen members must be
residents of the county of which the county fire board is formed
and not more than one citizen member may be appointed from the same
magisterial district in the county. The citizen members shall
serve for a term of three years but are limited to two consecutive
terms. If a member resigns or for any other reason his membership
terminates during his term of office, a successor shall be
appointed from the same representative area to fill out the
remainder of his term. Members in office at the expiration of
their respective terms shall continue to serve until their
successors have been appointed and have qualified.
Annually the board shall elect one of its appointed members as chairman and another as vice chairman, and shall appoint a
secretary-treasurer. Four members of the board shall constitute a
quorum and the affirmative vote of four members shall be necessary
for any action taken by vote of the board. No vacancy in the
membership of the authority shall impair the rights of a quorum by
such vote to exercise all the rights and perform all duties of the
§7-17-7. Resident requirement of county fire board members;
All members of the county fire board shall be residents of the
county in which the county fire board is intended to operate. If
a county boundary line divides a municipality's city limits, the
area of the municipality in which the majority of the
municipality's population resides determines the county in which
the municipality is located for this purpose.
§7-17-8. Compensation; expenses.
No member of the board may receive any compensation in
connection with his services as a member. Each member, however, is
entitled to reimbursement by the county fire board for any
necessary expenses actually incurred in connection with the
performance of his duties. However, not more than one percent of
the annual appropriations to the board may be used for
administrative expenses by the board.
§7-17-9. Board to be a public corporation.
The county fire board shall constitute and if authorized be
created a public corporation under the name provided for in its
articles of incorporation and, as such, shall have perpetual
succession, may contract with and be contracted with, sue and be
sued, and have and use a corporate seal.
§7-17-10. Powers generally.
The county fire board may:
(1) Make and adopt all necessary bylaws, rules and regulations
for its organization and operations not inconsistent with law;
(2) Elect its own officers, appoint committees and employ and
fix compensation for personnel necessary for its operation;
(3) Enter into contracts with any person, agency, governmental
department, firm or corporation, including both public and private
corporations, and renew, amend or supplement such contracts;
(4) Generally do any and all things necessary or convenient
for the purpose of improving fire service protection within the
area to be served;
(5) Borrow money, apply for, receive and use grants-in-aid,
donations and contributions from any source or sources and accept
and use bequests, devises, gifts and donations from any person,
firm or corporation;
(6) Raise funds by the issuance and sale of revenue bonds in
the manner provided by law;
(7) Formulate and present a petition for funds to the county
commission: Provided, That not more than one percent of such funds
be used for purposes other than the prioritized needs of the member
(8) Purchase or otherwise acquire, own, hold, sell and dispose
of real and personal property; and
(9) Expend its funds in the execution of the powers and
authority herein given, which expenditures, by the means authorized
herein, are hereby determined and declared as a matter of legislative finding to be for a public purpose and use, in the
public interest and for the general welfare of the people of West
County fire associations and county fire boards shall be
subject to the authority of the governing body in which said
association and boards are primarily located.
§7-17-12. County fire service fees; petition; election;
dedication; and increase.
Every county commission which provides fire protection
services has plenary power and authority to provide by ordinance
for the continuance or improvement of such service, to make
regulations with respect thereto and to impose by ordinance, upon
the users of such services, reasonable fire service rates, fees and
charges to be collected in the manner specified in the ordinance.
However, before a county commission can impose by ordinance, upon
the users of such service, a reasonable fire service fee, ten
percent of the qualified voters shall present a petition duly
signed by them in their own handwriting, and filed with the clerk
of the county commission directing that the county commission
impose such a fee. The county commission shall not have a lien on
any property as security for payments due under the ordinance. Any
ordinance enacted under the provisions of this section shall be
published as a Class II legal advertisement in compliance with the
provisions of article three, chapter fifty-nine of this code, and
the publication area for such publication shall be the county in
which the county fire board is located. In the event thirty
percent of the qualified voters of the county by petition duly
signed by them in their own handwriting and filed with the clerk of
the county commission within forty-five days after the expiration
of such publication protest against such ordinance as enacted or
amended, the ordinance may not become effective until it is ratified by a majority of the legal votes cast thereon by the
qualified voters of such county at any primary, general or special
election as the county commission directs. Voting thereon may not
take place until after notice of the submission has been given by
publication as above provided for the publication of the ordinance
after it is adopted. The powers and authority hereby granted to
county commissions are in addition to and supplemental to the
powers and authority otherwise granted to them by other provisions
of this code.
Any fees imposed under this article are dedicated to the
county fire board for the purposes provided in this article.
In the event the county fire board determines an increase in
any such fee imposed by this section is necessary, it shall by
resolution request the county commission for such an increase.
Procedures set forth in this section for the initial levy of such
a fee shall be followed by the county commission in the event an
increase is sought.
§7-17-13. Incurring indebtedness; rights of creditors.
The county fire board may incur any proper indebtedness and
issue any obligations and give any security therefor which it
considers necessary or advisable in connection with carrying out
its purposes as hereinbefore mentioned. No statutory limitation
with respect to the nature, or amount, interest rate or duration of
indebtedness which may be incurred by municipalities or other
public bodies applies to indebtedness of the county fire board.
No indebtedness or obligation incurred by the board shall give
any right against any member of the governing body of any
participating government or any member of the board. Any
obligation or indebtedness of any nature of the board shall never
constitute an obligation or indebtedness of any participating
government or the governing body of any participating government,
within the meaning of any constitutional provision or statutory
limitation and shall never constitute or give rise to a pecuniary
liability of any participating government or the governing body of
any participating government or be a charge against the general
credit or taxing power of any participating government or the
governing body of any participating government. The rights of
creditors of the board shall be solely against the board as a
corporate body and shall be satisfied only out of revenues, moneys
or property received or held by it in its corporate capacity.
§7-17-14. Agreements in connection with obtaining funds.
The county fire board may, in connection with obtaining funds
for its purposes, enter into any agreement with any person, firm or
corporation, including the federal government; or any agency or
subdivision thereof, containing provisions, covenants, terms and
conditions as the county fire board considers advisable.
§7-17-15. Property, bonds and obligations of authority exempt from
The county fire board is exempt from the payment of any taxes
or fees to the state or any subdivision thereof or to any officer
or employee of the state or other subdivision thereof. The
property of the county fire board is exempt from all local and
municipal taxes. Bonds, notes, debentures and other evidence of
indebtedness of the county fire board are declared to be issued for
a public purpose and to be public instrumentalities and are exempt
§7-17-16. Appropriations authorized.
The county commission and any municipality therein, or any one
or more of them, jointly and severally, may contribute by
appropriation from any funds available, to the cost of the
operation and projects of the county fire board.
§7-17-17. Contributions by county commissions, municipalities and
others; funds and accounts; reports; audit and
examination of books, records and accounts and
Contributions may be made to the county fire board from time
to time by the county commission of the county or any municipal
corporation therein, and by any persons, firms or corporations
which desire to do so. All such funds and all other funds received
by the county fire board shall be deposited in such bank or banks
as the county fire board may direct and shall be withdrawn
therefrom in such manner as the county fire board may direct. The
county fire board shall keep strict account of all its receipts and
expenditures and shall each quarter make a quarterly report to the
county commission and municipalities containing an itemized
statement of its receipts and disbursements during the preceding
quarter. Within sixty days after the end of each fiscal year, the
county fire board shall make an annual report containing an
itemized statement of its receipts and disbursements for the
preceding fiscal year. The annual report shall be published as a
Class I legal advertisement in compliance with the provisions of
article three, chapter fifty-nine of this code and the publication
area for such publication shall be the county in which the county
fire board is located. The books, records and accounts of the
board are subject to audit and examination by the office of the
state tax commissioner of West Virginia and by any other proper
public official or body in the manner provided by law. For failure
to comply with the provisions of this section the county fire board shall be fined not less than ten nor more than twenty-five dollars.
§7-17-18. Sale or lease of property; reversion of assets upon
The county fire board shall fix and determine the terms and
conditions of any property or equipment to be leased or sold by the
county fire board. Upon the dissolution of the county fire board,
all of its assets and property shall revert to and become the
property of the county for which the board was created.
§7-17-19. Employees to be covered by workers' compensation.
All employees of the county fire board eligible thereto are
considered to be within the Workers' Compensation Act of West
Virginia, and premiums on their compensation shall be paid by the
county fire board as required by law.
§7-17-20. Liberal construction of article.
It is the purpose of this article to provide for the
improvement, development and advancement of fire protection
services within the counties and this article shall be liberally
construed as giving to the county fire board full and complete
power reasonably required to give effect to the purposes hereof.