By Joe Beck
MOUNT JACKSON -- David Brinegar said he feels like he's stepping back in time each time he enters the Mount Jackson Rescue and Fire Department station.
Brinegar, the department's president, attended grade school in the1930s vintage building. The bunk beds in the station's living quarters occupy the same room where he sat in fifth grade. A classroom for firefighters and paramedics was once his first grade classroom.
But nostalgia only goes so far in running a fire and rescue service. Brinegar is hoping he can say goodbye to the station on Main Street in a few months. The town's planning commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing April 7 to review a special use permit and rezoning application needed for the department to relocate about a mile down the road. The Town Council is scheduled to vote on final approval a day later.
Brinegar admits the proposed move has created some hard feelings among some residents who would prefer the department continue to occupy its current aging station. Brinegar and others who are backing plans for the construction of a 20,000-square-foot station say the new building will allow the department to keep up with changing times.
Brinegar said fire and rescue departments throughout the area will eventually have to rely on career firefighters to take the place of dwindling numbers of volunteers. The 48 volunteer firefighters and paramedics who took calls last year for Mount Jackson constitute a more robust department than those found in many towns, but Brinegar predicts a different future.
"Eventually, it will be a career department, just like it will be in other places running up and down the valley," Brinegar said of Mount Jackson.
The new building will offer better living quarters, including separate bunk rooms and restrooms for men and women firefighters, Brinegar said, adding, "It makes sense to have separation and privacy."
Women, once rare to non-existent among firefighters and paramedics, now account for 12 of the volunteers, Brinegar said.
Brighter, more attractive living quarters should make it easier to recruit and retain firefighters and paramedics, whether they are volunteers or career professionals, Brinegar said.
"We have a lot of volunteers," Brinegar said. "We have a lot of people who are excited about this department."
He said he is also looking forward to a building with more bay space for ambulances, fire trucks and equipment.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com