Board hears concerns about fire, rescue staffing

FRONT ROYAL – Several Warren County residents urged leaders Tuesday to boost staffing at volunteer fire and rescue stations.

The Board of Supervisors heard from a handful of people who voiced concern that the county doesn’t have enough responders, either volunteers or paid staff, at some of the stations.

Shenandoah Farms resident Dee Schools, reading from a statement, pointed out that one station in 2014 failed to show up to 219 out of 427 calls while another didn’t show for 243 of 349 calls.

“When I speak to residents about fire and rescue the comments … from them are ‘I know I’ll lose my home, I’m prepared for that,'” Schools said. “When I ask ‘what are you gonna do if you’re trapped in your home,’ I get blank looks and comments like ‘I never thought about that’ or they say ‘I’m gonna live near a staffed station’ and they think they are safe.”

Schools said she has explained that a staffed station consists of two responders in a truck but that they cannot enter a home until two more arrive.

Rachel and Eddie Stevens, of South Fork Drive, are trained firefighters and emergency medical technicians and had volunteered at the former Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department. Rachel Stevens voiced concerns about insufficient staffing and an apparent lack of incentives to bring more volunteers to county stations.

“The first question you have to ask yourself as a resident: Is two firefighters and an engine adequate enough for a response to even a small scale incident?” Rachel Stevens said, reading from a statement. “And, lastly, why is a career staff of 24 professionals considered enough for this very rapidly growing community?”

Eddie Stevens expressed concern as a volunteer with a full-time job about the affect a lack of staffing could have on his safety.

Shenandoah Farms resident Lynda McDonough commented that she has had to wait for emergency workers to respond to calls. McDonough urged the board look into the staffing issue, both volunteers and paid staff.

Thomas Sayre of the Shenandoah Shores neighborhood said he’s talked to people who work as responders in other localities and those agencies have had to lend their equipment to Warren County.

Sayre and Schools, along with Shenandoah Farms resident Ralph Rinaldi, are running for the Shenandoah District seat on the Board of Supervisors in the Nov. 3 election.

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Approved a resolution of support for the naming of a bridge on Interstate 66 at milemarker 10.7, over Va. 627, in the county in the memory of fallen state trooper Harry Lee Henderson. Wayne Huggins, of the Virginia State Police Association, told the board that the association plans to ask the General Assembly to authorize the naming of the bridge at its session in 2016 and, if approved, hold a commemoration that summer. The resolution of support will help that effort, Huggins said. Henderson died in the line of duty in 1987 while conducting a traffic stop. Several of Henderson’s former colleagues attended the meeting along with a handful of active troopers.

• Approved an ordinance to amend the county code to change the polling place for the Otterburn Precinct from the Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department to the Warren County Airport terminal building. No one spoke at the public hearing on the item. The amendments reflect changes made to state code that went into effect in July.

• Approved an ordinance to amend the county code to give the Planning Commission 60 days to approve or disapprove a preliminary site plan for commercial or industrial development and 45 days to approve or disapprove a modified site plan. No one spoke at the public hearing on the item.

• Approved an amended memorandum of understanding with Front Royal and the Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority regarding the cost sharing for the Leach Run Parkway

• Nominated George E. Cline to the Board of Building Code Appeals

• Voted to authorize the Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours and County Attorney Blair Mitchell to settle the case MCAP Sutherlands v. Warren County by adjusting the assessment of the Sutherlands facility to a value of $4,471,900 for the tax years 2015 to 2018. Mitchell said the previous assessment was approximately $5.5 million.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com