County pulls aid from New Market station

Shenandoah County has removed their career personnel from New Market Fire and Rescue and repositioned them to Mt. Jackson Rescue and Fire.   Rich Cooley/Daily file

Shenandoah County has removed their career personnel from New Market Fire and Rescue and repositioned them to Mt. Jackson Rescue and Fire. Rich Cooley/Daily file

Shenandoah County on Monday pulled its paid emergency responders from the embattled New Market Fire and Rescue station.

The county Department of Fire and Rescue announced Monday afternoon that it moved its crews from the New Market facility to the Mt. Jackson Rescue and Fire Department station effective immediately. Neither county officials nor representatives of New Market Volunteer Fire and Rescue could provide specific reasons behind the action Monday afternoon.

County Administrator Mary T. Price stated in a press release that “we believe this is in the mutual best interest of both the New Market Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department as well as the county staff formerly assigned to the station.” Price went on to state: “Our commitment to the citizens of New Market and the broader southern Shenandoah County community remains unchanged. This repositioning of staff allows us to address the best interest of county staff, while still providing an essential public safety service.”

Representatives with the county administration and the New Market organization met last week, Price said by phone. The specific idea of moving the responders out of the station did not come up during the discussion, Price added.

“Before we did this, we did notify them,” Price said. “We made sure we did that.”

The New Market volunteer group was notified Monday before it pulled the responders from the station, Price said.

Former New Market Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Robbie Smith said Monday he heard about the change that afternoon. Smith said the organization’s leadership had scheduled a meeting for that night to discuss the matter. John Blosser, president of the volunteer organization’s board of directors and member of the New Market Town Council, said he couldn’t comment on the situation.

On Monday night, New Market Town Council voted unanimously to appoint Chief Gary Yew, of the Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Department, as chief of New Market Fire and Rescue Inc., according to information from Town Manager Mike Ritchie. State code allows the town council to appoint a chief to the volunteer organization.

Specifically, county crews assigned to the 24-hour, 7-day per week shifts will be repositioned from New Market to Mount Jackson. The county provides 14 paid responders to the New Market station. Crews of four people provide 24-7 coverage. Those personnel will provide public safety services to south Shenandoah County, including the New Market community, from the Mount Jackson station.

County Building Official Michael Dellinger and Fire Marshal David Ferguson visited the Mount Jackson station and determined that the facility can accommodate the added responders, Price said. Mt. Jackson Rescue and Fire is also nearing completion on a new station.

The move comes months after the New Market volunteer agency lost its state license to provide emergency medical services and to use its equipment to do so. The county department took over responsibility of providing emergency medical services for the station. The volunteer agency can operate its firefighting equipment but still lacks the EMS license. The agency cannot obtain its state EMS license until the county signs off in support of the request.

Last week the county Board of Supervisors discussed in closed session a personnel matter regarding workplace environment concerns. No action was taken after the board came out of closed session. Price said Monday the county’s attorney advised her not to comment on the substance of the closed session discussion.

This isn’t the first time the county pulled paid staff from a volunteer agency’s station. Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department asked the county to take out the paid responders assigned to the station about a year ago after negotiations over a planned renovation of its living quarters fell through.

The county provided a two-person crew to the New Market Volunteer Rescue Squad, then a separate agency from the firefighting contingent, in 2008. The county added another two-person crew to the combined volunteer agency in 2012.

The response area of New Market, Conicville and Orkney Springs fire and rescue companies makes up the southern battalion. The county department also assigns crews to Orkney Springs Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company and Mt. Jackson Rescue and Fire.

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

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