Bryce backs push for responders

WOODSTOCK – Bryce Resort would benefit from more paid emergency responders assigned to western Shenandoah County, say representatives of the resort and two nearby fire departments

The Board of Supervisors plans to consider taking action today on a measure aimed at placing paid firefighter/emergency medical technicians at volunteer fire stations in Conicville and Orkney Springs. Representatives of the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department and Orkney Springs Fire and Rescue along with residents in those communities attended a recent board work session to show support for the request to add responders to the stations.

Orkney Springs Fire and Rescue representatives have asked the county to add two responders to the station. Orkney Springs Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Aaron Miller told the board that should a chairlift at the resort break, his agency would need to respond to take people off the equipment.

Bryce Resort President Tom Fugate, joined by the general manager and safety director at the meeting, said the matter facing the board also has an impact on the attraction. Fugate also sent a letter to county officials laying out the concerns of the resort representatives.

Emergency calls to the resort and Basye has averaged just over 300 in the past three years, Fugate said, reading from his letter. Many of the calls involved high-priority, life-threatening injuries, Fugate added.

“Response time has improved dramatically from at least 15-30 minutes during the years when Orkney Springs did not have dedicated careerists to now … an average of five minutes,” Fugate said. “Although it’s difficult to predict … how many lives have been saved as a result of the reduced on-scene times, there is little doubt any delay in emergency care can result in increased deaths.”

Several thousand people live in Bryce Resort either full- or part-time. The resort attracts about 100,000 visitors from outside the area each year. Many of the calls for emergency services come as a result of injuries sustained as part of the activities at the resort, Fugate said. The resort employs 75-100 people throughout the year.

“By my estimate, Shenandoah County cannot afford increased risk exposure to the greater base of Bryce community and the trickle-down effect, the domino effect of that to Conicville and New Market,” Fugate said.

Safety Director Glenn Jackson added that Bryce treats 200-250 patients at the resort each year. Many patients receive treatment at the resort by staff before going to the hospital by private vehicle. The resort tries not to tax the local emergency medical services system, Jackson said.

“But there are those times where we do have significant injuries that need the immediate transport and delayed response is just not an option,” Jackson said.

Orkney Springs Fire Department and Orkney Basye Rescue Squad merged in 2005 to create the county’s first combination agency, Miller told the board. The new agency dealt with a shortage of volunteers at the time but persevered, Miller said. All volunteer agencies entered into an agreement with the Board of Supervisors and administration in 2006 to address problems currently affecting the county, Miller added.

Each year, the chief of the county Department of Fire and Rescue has tried to help the stations by asking for more paid responders to no avail, Miller said.

“We don’t need more policy; we need more people,” Miller told the board.

It’s not the job of the volunteer agencies to decide how the county provides more paid staff, Miller added. That responsibility falls on the supervisors, he said.

“I realize that taxing the public isn’t what gets you re-elected but that’s not our concern,” Miller said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or