Richburg fire chief urges Chester County town to investigate confusing addresses

jzou@heraldonline.comJuly 26, 2013 

— When firefighters were dispatched after a report of a house fire at 115 Alice Gaston Road in Richburg earlier this month, they found an empty lot instead.

The home at the address had burned in a fire two years ago and hadn’t been replaced. The current fire was behind the abandoned lot.

Richburg firefighters were able to quickly adjust, dragging their hoses through a nearby yard and putting out the blaze on the mobile home.

The address glitch piqued the interest of Richburg Fire Department Chief John Agee.

“That just got our curiosity going,” said Agee, who made a trip to the local tax assessor to review town maps and found some conflicting addresses.

The recent fire had been on a residence on West Lancaster Street, which is adjacent to Alice Gaston Road.

“If you plugged it into your GPS system you could not find it,” he said of locating residences on tiny roads such as Alice Gaston, which are common in Richburg.

Agee said he also found other residences with addresses listed in a confusing manner based on their street location.

Richburg has a population of less than 300 residents, and crews often respond with other fire departments and emergency services in Chester County.

“It's critical that you have proper addressing,” Agee said of coordinating response. He informed the town’s council of the discrepancy and urged members to take a deeper look at the issue.

Agee said that 911 relies on town-supplied addresses for dispatches and that it’s the town’s responsibility to ensure those addresses match with those on record.

“We’re going to review all of it to make sure we do not have an address problem,” said Tommy McMinn, chairman of the town’s planning and zoning board.

In a recent meeting, the board met to begin discussions on the issue. McMinn said he expects the board to make recommendations based on their findings to Richburg Mayor James Harris in August.

While firefighters were able to quickly spot the error in the case of the recent fire, Agee said they might not be as lucky next time.

“It's a fire, you’re gonna be able to see it,” he said. “The main problem is somebody is having a medical issue.”

Town council member Ed Sharpe decided to take a look at the address in question with his son, who works in the fire department and answered the fire call that night.

When the two men drove out into the area to take a look at the homes, they discovered that some addresses listed on Alice Gaston Road are inaccessible from the road itself.

“I really and truly don’t understand how you get a couple of houses on the wrong street,” Sharpe said.

The councilman said that Richburg is home to several elderly residents. Crews receive a lot of 911 calls related to accidents along Interstate 77, so coordinated emergency response is critical.

Sharpe said that he has no doubt the town will be able to resolve any potential, confusing addresses. “It’ll get straightened out,” he said.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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