County, fire companies to adopt new agree­ment

Op­tion spelled out to hire ‘ca­reer’ firefighters, EMS re­spon­ders

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By John Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

For the first time since Oc­to­ber 1998, when the Rap­pa­han­nock County gov­ern­ment and Rap­pa­han­nock County Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue As­so­ci­a­tion last is­sued a writ­ten agree­ment to pro­vide emer­gency ser­vices to the county’s cit­i­zens, the board of su­per­vi­sors and fire au­thor­i­ties are set to hold a spe­cial meet­ing to­day to adopt a new agree­ment.

“This agree­ment is in­tended to fur­ther en­hance the part­ner­ship that ex­ists be­tween the county, the as­so­ci­a­tion, and the in­di­vid­ual vol­un­teer fire and res­cue companies by pro­vid­ing greater clar­ity to the role and re­spon­si­bil­ity of each party,” a draft of the agree­ment reads.

It states that the Amissville Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue Com­pany, Castleton Com­mu­nity Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany, Ch­ester Gap Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, Flint Hill Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue Com­pany, Sperryville Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment, Sperryville Vol­un­teer Res­cue Squad, and Washington Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue will con­tinue to op­er­ate “in­de­pen­dently” al­beit with the full fi­nan­cial sup­port of the county.

“The county has tra­di­tion­ally al­lowed its vol­un­teer companies a great deal of in­de­pen­dence in the op­er­a­tion and di­rec­tion of their ac­tiv­i­ties, and the county has no in­ten­tion of chang­ing that tra­di­tion as a mat­ter of pol­icy so long as the companies con­tinue to pro­vide the level of ser­vice . . . and pro­fes­sion­al­ism to the cit­i­zens of Rap­pa­han­nock County,” the agree­ment states.

That said, the up­dated 2017 agree­ment stresses that to­day’s all-vol­un­teer force could prove in­ad­e­quate once the county’s pop­u­la­tion be­gins to grow and the needs change. In that case, if not sooner, the county would pro­pose hir­ing ca­reer firefighters and emer­gency med­i­cal re­spon­ders to sup­ple­ment the vol­un­teers.

“The county re­mains com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing a strong and vi­able vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue/EMS sys­tem that may need to be sup­ple­mented by ca­reer fire, res­cue, and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices em­ploy­ees in the fu­ture,” the agree­ment points out.

One sce­nario could see paid ca­reer firefighters and/ or EMS providers work­ing overnight shifts, less­en­ing the bur­den on the squadron of Rap­pa­han­nock vol­un­teers, many of whom have full-time jobs.

In the mean­time, the as­so­ci­a­tion would be ex­pected to in­ves­ti­gate in­no­va­tive meth­ods, in­clud­ing staff shar­ing or fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for vol­un­teers, to meet over­all county fire and res­cue ser­vice stan­dards. The ma­jor­ity of companies in Rap­pa­han­nock have re­cently drawn at­ten­tion to a short­age of vol­un­teers, es­pe­cially young peo­ple.

“The as­so­ci­a­tion shall fa­cil­i­tate ef­forts and ag­gres­sively work to re­cruit, train, and main­tain a vi­able vol­un­teer fire, res­cue, and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices,” the agree­ment states, but any­thing short of that re­quires that the as­so­ci­a­tion “no­tify the county as soon as pos­si­ble of the need for ca­reer staffing, and pre­pare a plan, sched­ule, and pro­ce­dures for in­te­grat­ing such ca­reer staff.”

Un­til that time, as set forth in the agree­ment, the companies would be ex­pected to de­liver “timely and ef­fi­cient” fire, res­cue, and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices to the pub­lic: “Re­sponse Time: Re­spond within 8 min­utes and be on scene within 25 min­utes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 90 per­cent (%) of the time,” the draft reads.

From a fire­fight­ing stand­point this would en­tail “the abil­ity to re­spond to an event and min­i­mize to the ex­tent pos­si­ble the loss of life, loss of prop­erty and struc­tural dam­age. This in­cludes the abil­ity to en­ter a burn­ing build­ing and res­cue the oc­cu­pant, with the ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber of qual­i­fied firefighters and the nec­es­sary ap­pa­ra­tus,” says the agree­ment.

In ad­di­tion, sur­round­ing EMS, there would con­tinue to be an ex­pected “coun­ty­wide abil­ity to re­spond to two si­mul­ta­ne­ous events and ad­min­is­ter med­i­cal aid and trans­port to hos­pi­tal, with ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber of cer­ti­fied and qual­i­fied per­son­nel and the nec­es­sary ap­pa­ra­tus.”

For its part, the county gov­ern­ment, when con­sid­er­ing bud­get re­quests to fund the fire and res­cue companies, would as­pire “within the lim­its of its pru­dent bud­getary pri­or­i­ties and con­straints, to pro­vide fund­ing . . . that will cover one hun­dred per­cent of oper­a­tional ex­penses.”

The Code of Vir­ginia per­mits the county to im­pose a tax on real and per­sonal prop­erty to raise funds solely to pro­vide fire­fight­ing and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices, oth­er­wise known as a “Fire Levy.”

The funds would con­tinue to be ad­min­is­tered in a sep­a­rate ac­count and be fully dis­trib­uted as ap­pro­pri­ated to the par­tic­i­pat­ing fire and res­cue companies.

The county would also seek to “main­tain mu­tual aid agree­ments” with the coun­ties of Culpeper, Fauquier, War­ren, Madi­son, and Page, and with fed­eral agen­cies such as the U.S. National Park Ser­vice.

The county, if needed, would also act on be­half of fire companies that bill pa­tients and their in­sur­ance providers to re­cover costs of pro­vid­ing EMS ser­vices.

Fi­nally, any money raised from fundrais­ing ef­forts by the in­di­vid­ual fire companies would re­main the prop­erty of those companies.

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