Shenandoah and Frederick counties are moving in the right direction by centralizing volunteer fire departments under one chief. Instead of volunteer companies each tackling recruitment, retention, response times and other issues common to all, it’s just smarter to work together with oversight from a county chief.

Shenandoah County supervisors last week approved a plan to create an organization with county Fire and Rescue Chief Tim Williams at the helm, while supervisors in Frederick County have yet to vote on their plan.

These strategic plans are not without controversy.

Shenandoah County Supervisor Richard Walker raised concerns at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting about the centralization, noting that he would like to see the plan accepted by all of the volunteer departments. Board Chairman Conrad Helsley responded that every department had a chance to provide input into the plan. “Every department was invited to come and participate,” he said. “Most of them did; some of them did not.”

Stephens City and Middletown officials are holding a joint meeting today to voice their concerns about a fire and rescue study commissioned by Frederick County.

There is an emotional element in centralizing. Volunteer companies have independently manned and maintained their departments for decades. Entire families have proudly served their communities through these departments, saving their neighbors’ lives and structures as well as raising funds to continue doing so. But there have been some problems, as well, from difficulty in finding enough volunteers to raising funds to misconduct by department members.

This move to centralization is a positive step forward in protecting our communities.