Board to hear fire station’s plea for help

The Conicville Volunteer Fire Department recently reiterated its demand that Shenandoah County assign paid responders to its station.

Whether or not the Board of Supervisors finds the money needed to hire more firefighters remains uncertain as county officials head into budget-making season. But District 2 Supervisor Steven Baker, whose area includes Conicville, has tried and failed to persuade the board to fund paid responders for the station. Baker repeated his request at a recent board meeting.

Supervisors intend to hear from representatives of the Conicville station at a work session today. County Administrator Mary T. Price said Wednesday that the organization has made similar requests for paid responders in the past. In previous years, the Department of Fire and Rescue made its requests for paid responders as part of its budget proposal. But, as Price pointed out, Conicville made an emergency request for help.

The county approved a similar emergency request for paid responders from the Strasburg Rescue Squad in January 2014, Price recalled. The volunteer organization asked the county to provide staffing to increase its 24-hour coverage from five to seven days a week. The county needed to provide two more responders to fulfill the request, Price said. The county later provided four relief positions to the station that took effect in July 2014.

The board’s discussion will come after the county received letters from the Conicville organization’s leadership last month. Chief Billy Mumaw Jr. and President Jay Ross signed off on the Nov. 17 letter outlining the organization’s demands.

“Conicville Volunteer Fire Department is requesting immediate emergency staffing, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year,” the letter states. “We have been requesting staffing since 2011, CVFD is a struggling volunteer department that is trying every mean(s) to recruit and retain volunteers with little success.”

The letter goes on to state that the organization loses volunteers faster than it can recruit and certify them. The state’s growing demands for training makes it difficult to keep qualified responders, the letter notes. Conicville can accommodate immediate staffing with a few minor changes to mimic the neighboring Orkney Springs station.

“We are constantly told that there is no money in the budget but what price is put on a person’s life?” the letter states. “It is a hard job to explain to a family why it takes more than 30 minutes to get an ambulance to the scene of a call or to get a fire truck to a fire that could have been suppressed and saved life and property.”

The organization held a special meeting Nov. 17 and sent another letter to the county the next day. Vice Chairman Richard Walker and District 2 Supervisor Steven Baker attended the meeting along with Tim Williams, chief of the county Department of Fire and Rescue, and members of the organization, the second letter dated Nov. 18 states. Mumaw and Ross also signed the second letter that indicates the organization exhausted all of its options in its control and now makes the following request: that the county provide two emergency responders five days per week, Wednesday through Sunday, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. effective immediately.

The request in the Nov. 17 letter accurately describes the station’s needs, the second correspondence notes.

“After much discussion during the (Nov. 17) meeting it was determined that the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue cannot immediately support that request due to lack of personnel,” the letter states. “The updated request will prevent the citizens in our response area from waiting an extended time for emergency services.”

Conicville members recognize that fulfilling the request will lead to overtime costs until the county can hire more responders, the letter notes.

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