Public Meeting in Churchville Stirs Emotional Debate About Fire Department Staffing and Response

Photo Courtesy of The News Leader

In Augusta County, debate continues about the Churchville VFD’s perceived lack of response to emergencies their response district.  Despite not arriving first on only 4.5% of the 1400 calls they’re dispatched to each year, a handful of community members are speaking loudly about the need for 24/7 career staffing at the firehouse.

From NBC29.com:

About 50 people turned out for the public meeting at Churchville Elementary School.  Only a handful were actually there to express their concerns, but the small crowd that spoke out still managed to spark quite a debate.The volunteer-based group is under fire after some community members argue the department lacks staff to respond to nearby calls.  Supervisors say the county is prepared.

The article continues:

Three destructive fires have sparked in the Churchville area in recent weeks – destroying property, injuring two people, and killing four family members. A petition collected 400 signatures asking for paid staffers 24/7 to help avoid future tragedies.  Churchville Fire and Rescue currently has three paid firefighters, who work Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Supervisors note adding paid firefighters will cost tax dollars.  “You can’t fully staff a station with less than 12 people,” Pyles said. “We have three now. That costs us $150,000 a year.  Twelve people, we’re talking a half million dollars.”

Read More from NBC29.com:   Debate Heats Up at Churchville Fire and Rescue Public Meeting – NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather.

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4 Responses

  • concerned says:

    Let’s get some F A C T S in place first. The “Churchville VFD” does NOT run 1,400 calls per year! The FIRE company had “credit” for 530 or so calls in 2012. The RESCUE SQUAD (ambulance) had credit for 850 or so. The FIRE side did not respond to 30 or so calls. DID NOT RESPOND. The ambulance did not respond to 33 or so. In addition to the NO RESPONSES they did not arrive on scene in their first due district a number of times (I do not have that data nearby, but ASSUME that is where your “4.5%” comes from). If you take 4.5% of 530 calls – that is 24 calls. That’d be 24 PLUS the 31 or 55 calls which is OVER TEN PERCENT —- but, …. oh, yeah, there’s more. The fire company “ADD THEMSELVES” to ambulance calls MANY (numerous) times each year. An estimate is 75 – 125 times so we’ll call that 100 for now (unknown). To further explain that “phenomenon”, their ambulance is toned (for ambulance only call) – they will respond adding the fire dept to the call. The dispatch center then CREATES a call for the fire dept doing 3 things. 1. INCREASING THEIR CALL LOAD (artificially) 2. DRASTICALLY reducing their otherwise unimpressive response time…think about it 0m 0s response…same as if you have a 100, 85, 100 , 0 test scores. with the first 3, you have a 95% GPA (An “A”) – add in just ONE 0 and suddenly you are down to 71% – BARELY passing). With a 2nd 0 – you are FAILING miserably with a 57%! and 3. GETTING PAID for 2 calls when you only RESPONDED to 1 (or in MANY cases – did NOT respond at all – the PAID STAFF responded)!
    Many of the concerned citizens are concerned because they see the City of Staunton (career) or the Swoope Volunteer Fire Co arrive ahead of or in lieu of Churchville – from 7 – 12 miles away (depending on location of call).
    Paid staff is COSTLY, and this Fire Dept is NOT trying. Their Deputy Chief last year was very quick to tout “we have more volunteers than any company in this county”. They have paid staff M-F 6-1800. IF they “need” (want) paid staff the rest of the time, they should simply close their doors and have the county take it over! 1 FF here averages $55,000 / yr in cost (for $30,000/yr salary). IF that is the way they go, then the VERY few (5) all volunteer companies that ARE getting the job done (***WITH MUCH BETTER STATISTICS by-the-way) should get a tax break or tax credit at a minimum!
    Back to YOUR numbers – if they did not arrive first on “only” 4.5% of 1400 calls – that is 63 calls, in addition to their 64 MISSED calls or 127 calls. so which is it?!?

  • Concerned,

    Thank you for your input and comments, and for checking out the site. The 4.5% figure was taken from the figures that were published in the attached news story. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to verifying the exact call statistics for the department. If you can provide published statistics for the department, we will be more than happy to redact and/or retract our earlier story and provide updated information to the VAFireNews.com followers. We do aim to provide the most timely and accurate information possible.

    Many regards,
    VAFireNews.com Staff

  • Informed says:

    Ambulances respond with fire personnel because the fire company is dispatched with rescue. Therefore the ambulance responds with fire personnel on board. Makes sense right? Adding yourself to a call would be if a neighboring agency is dispatched for an MVC with a vehicle on fire and you respond while from your first due.

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