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Rescue response forum planned

Meeting set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Toms Brook Fire Hall

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

TOMS BROOK -- Fire- and rescue-related issues have been a burning issue throughout the county for several years now, and residents will have a chance to find out more during a community meeting Thursday at the Toms Brook Fire Hall.

District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris will host the 7 p.m. forum.

"What I'm trying to do is get the information out as to what we as a board are doing, number one, what we're doing for the volunteers right now, and also show the call volume, how it's increased over the last couple of years," he said Monday. "It's kind of a broad-based informational type meeting, which I think will be beneficial to the community."

The forum is open to everyone, not just residents of District 5, Morris said.

He expects Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew and Operations Director Tim Williams to attend.

Paying volunteer agencies' insurance and fuel costs, as well as annual contributions, are examples of what the county does for volunteers, Morris said.

The volunteer agencies have been struggling to attract and retain volunteers in recent years, and career staff have been placed in many stations. For a time a couple of years ago, the Strasburg Rescue Squad was disbanded by the Board of Supervisors due to failure to answer calls.

More recently, Yew was concerned about the failure of Woodstock Rescue Squad volunteers to run any calls on a Sunday.

The county also recently adopted a fee-for-service ambulance policy, and is considering basing funding on response times and the percentage of shifts staffed by volunteers.

Morris said Monday he has not been hearing complaints about fire and rescue service from residents, but does get occasional questions.

For example, he said, people have wondered why an ambulance might be left running while the crew is in a restaurant, and Morris said that could be due to the need to keep onboard medications at a specific temperature.

The need to follow state and federal mandates is behind other practices, he said.

Also at the presentation, a map of Shenandoah County will be displayed, and a day's worth of calls shown, Morris said. The map will show where companies have to cover and the length of time each call takes.

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