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Posted March 14, 2012 | 10 Comments
Shenandoah County fire officials explain need to hire 13 firefighters, EMTs
Chief: Volunteers aren't meeting response-time goals
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Several county officials justified the need for additional paid firefighters during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.
The fiscal 2013 budget as proposed by County Administrator Doug Walker includes the creation of 13 firefighter/emergency medical technician positions. That would require nearly $700,000 in a department that currently pays about $1.9 million for 32 full-time employees. There are six part-time staffers, too.
Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said on Monday that his department had actually requested 22 more workers to help volunteer agencies in the county meet coverage gaps.
New Market Fire and Rescue, in particular, needs more manpower, with paid staff required to provide 24-hour coverage, Yew said.
More and more, fire and rescue volunteers aren't meeting response-time goals and failing calls, Yew has frequently told the Board of Supervisors.
District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson led the questioning of Yew on Tuesday. Ferguson said he already knew the answers.
He asked Yew if it was New Market Fire and Rescue's responsibility to supply its own personnel, to which Yew replied in the affirmative, but added the department was struggling.
"The volunteers just aren't there," Yew said.
"Can't we hold them accountable for that responsibility and not staff New Market, and let them be responsible for any loss of life or property?" Ferguson prompted.
Yew responded, "Absolutely not. We can't sacrifice that."
Ferguson asked why not.
"Lives are at stake, property is at stake," Yew said.
Ferguson said justification for the new hires being requested would have to be articulated because when that many people are added to a department, the public will perceive them as being unnecessary. He said residents won't have the knowledge or understanding of why more are needed.
"Some of the questions I asked you earlier were just leading questions to hear what you had to say," Ferguson said.
The Board of Supervisors is responsible for providing public safety to the county, he said.
"It's quite clear, we're hearing from the public," District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said.
"They don't think we need to hire more," the suprevisor said. "It's essential that you communicate that to these volunteer departments that that's what some of our citizens who don't understand the situation [perceive] ... We need to educate and communicate through the volunteer departments as well as through our meetings."
Yew said he understood the criticism the board members were hearing from residents, and said most people will never need fire or EMS services.
"But, I'm exposed to the ones daily that do, and have to answer to the ones that don't receive it in a timely manner, or don't receive it at all," Yew said.