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GIS mapping to be used for fire districts

Technology will help refine companies' 'first-due' areas

By Sally Voth --svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Two Shenandoah County agencies are teaming up in an effort to get emergency services to residents faster.

Each fire and rescue department in the county serves an area that's referred to as its "first due." The first-due company would be the first one dispatched to a call in that area.

"These districts were set up and established many, many years ago in the county," Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said.

The Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Association recommended that the county's geographic information systems department analyze how the districts are designated, Yew said, to see if the Department of Fire and Rescue should redraw the lines.

"It's been many, many years since this topic was visited," he said. "Always before, it was done by hand. Of course, we didn't have GIS technology available."

GIS coordinator Chris Way said this is a project he's been wanting to tackle.

"I've basically used GIS to help in determining the optimum area for the different stations -- or rescue squads, fire stations -- based on the road network and the travel times along those road segments," he said. "It's all about traveling time.

"I can't say they're going to adopt it verbatim. It's a computer and there are things that it may do [that] out in the real world doesn't make sense."

It's possible that some parts of the county would be better-served by departments in neighboring counties, Yew said. For example, he said, Timberville departments might be able to reach some residents in the southwestern part of the county faster than fire and rescue companies from New Market or Orkney Springs could.

"The whole goal is to get the closest [help] there as quickly as we can," Yew said.
He said he hoped to have the project done by next month.

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