Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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The 1999 Study of Spotsylvania County’s Fire and Rescue combined system

The 1999 study of the fire and rescue system made a number of recommendations, but the study states that the fundamental issue facing the combined system is MANAGEMENT.

The report states that although this is a combined system, their efforts are not well coordinated.

So, back in 1999, county officials were aware that the county had a fire and rescue system that was not well coordinated.

“Volunteer companies seem to be at odds both with themselves and with career staff on how to do business,” the study states.

This remains an issue today.

“The need for centralized direction is apparent,” the study recommended.

This remains an issue today.

The study recommended that the position of fire and rescue chief be clearly defined as the person who is in charge.

Can a person conclude from recent events that not much has changed since this study was presented to supervisors in 1999?

Supervisors Ben Pitts, Jerry Logan and Emmitt Marshall all were on the Board of Supervisors in 1999, so they are each familiar with this 1999 study.

The Board of Supervisors, according to minutes and budget documents, has not been easily persuaded to augment the combined system with career staff to make up for what the volunteers have been unable to do i.e. around the clock coverage.

“That system can work well, but eventually, issues start to appear,” the study states. “Some jurisdictions have taken a different approach: rather than hiring employees and thinking about the management of these employees later, these jurisdictions have started by hiring managers or a manager and tasking that person with staffing and running their organization. This approach is usually more successful. As the county continues to grow, it may become appropriate to establish a position of director of public safety.”

The report also recommends that standard operating procedures needed immediate attention by this new director of public safety position the county board never created. Other recommendations were:

  • development of a uniform rank structure (right now, the rank structure is much different with the volunteers compared with the rank structure for the career. Some elected volunteer chiefs would not have the level of training or experience to be chiefs for the career side)
  • establish a working relationship with the fire and rescue managers in neighboring jurisdictions.
  • establish a procedure for reviewing the organization’s performance at incidents (We know that Chancellor wasn’t even aware that a critique report was required for the Feb. 5 fire because the incident commander did not complete one until the FLS wrote a story that is required. The report on the Feb. 5 fire states in the interview section that the incident commander did not know he had to have a written critique of the fire. This could be confusion related to having more than one set of SOPs)
  • Extend the working day for career personnel by 12 hours (this was never followed and this would have created a true combined system with volunteers working together with career staff)
  • Staff two ALS medic units with career personnel around the clock. (This never happened)
  • Staff one ladder truck with career personnel. (Never happened)

You can read the entire 1999 study HERE.

This is the same study that the Fire and Rescue Commission voted 3-2 declined to have done again. The commission has three members who represent each of the county’s three volunteer agencies, and they were the three votes against the study. They said they didn’t see a reason to have the the state come to do a study and recommend the same things state officials recommended in 1999. Plus, one commission member said he thought the state officials were anti-volunteer and that there was no representation for volunteer agencies.


  • bhaas

    Mr. Barnes is readng (at BOS Meeting) an extensive resolution regarding recommended changes to the management of the County F&EMS. This may be a major move that could bring sweeping changes. Very interesting, indeed.

  • opiniontoshare

    I feel I need to reiterate a point I made before – we can cast stones at the fire and rescue commission and the BOS all we want about stations not being staffed 24/7. But ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring that a station is staffed 24/7 rests with people in the community. If the county makes an effort to recruit people to staff the stations, and yet, able-bodied in the community don’t feel the need to put forth the effort to keep the station staffed 24/7, the county has done its part. Nobody should care more about the service in a particular community than the people who live there.

  • opiniontoshare

    I’m not involved in fire and rescue, but I get irked at people who complain about a personnel shortgage, but won’t put forth any effort themselves to help solve the problem. I guess it is so much easier to complain.

  • opiniontoshare

    I think anybody who approaches the BOS complaining about a station not being staffed needs to be asked why they aren’t volunteering to help fix the problem. I’m not a volunteer, but if I was concerned about the staffing at my local station, I would inquire about volunteering before I went complaining to the government.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    When someone puts accountability on the shoulders of the public or community instead of those who are in charge of public safety, what is the public to think. It’s been 10 years. How much more complacency can any one citizen account for when those in change keep the public totally at arms length, and as of late, at risk? Since there is no transparency or accountability in local government, how is a community supposed to make “INFORMED DECISIONS” on how they would like their rescue teams to conduct business in their best interest, when Fire/Rescue/EMS and the BOS have everyone in the dark, for want of being found out, with something as simple as an independent evaluation, not by those in the County who claim to be independent, but some body of knowledge who passes muster and has NO AGENDA. Otherwise, all WE can expect is more finger pointing in all the wrong dorections, and more excuses than Carter has liver pills.

    The more we debate this issue, the more cause there is to seriously question the credibility of those holding on to the high ground with all fours.

    Bill, change is not going to come by merely changing the faces of the BOS. We have to change a “culture” that’s grown up around peoples thinking in the Region, from which elected leaders and their friends have ruled for decades, and continue to lead the public by the nose, for want of an answer to very simple questions.

    With all these postured positions over the course of many different blogs, we somehow continue to miss the real point. No member of the Spotsylvania County BOs has sought to engage any member of the public in constructive conversation. They continue to send their minnions who have demonstrated they are ill-equiped to say anything more than what their script calls for. It’s time to hear from the puppet masters.

    OFFICIAL NOTICE: no word back from anyone denying that Spotsylvania County government has a “Focus Group”, without minutes, who continue to meet without over sight from any member of the public or PRESS. Although Steve has claimed that it’s RUMORED that such a group does exist, but he knows nothing of the details. As Chairman of the EDA, one would have thought he was closer to the flame than in name only.

    I’ve noticed, with serious reservations, no one in Spotsylvania County, FAMPO’s Regional organization, Planning Department and Planning Commission has come to the table to deny its existence. Not even Dan Telvock of the Free Lance Star has come to admit that such a group, conducting business behind closed doors and apparently in secrecy, does or does not exist.

    Question: What are WE to think of this anomoly in the context of governmental TRANSPARENCE and ACCOUNTABILITY?

    How many loose ends does it take to put a face on this brick wall?

  • bhaas

    @ opiniontoshare…If I understand you correctly, no one should ask questions about staffing etc. unless they are willing to step up and become Volunteers?

    Well, I beg to differ…all tax payers have the inherent right to question anything for which tax money is spent. In addition, do citizens that are aged and perhaps infirmed not have the right to question the county?

  • Sam

    Ok Opinion. Maybe I am not in a position in life to volunteer, those days are over for me. It’s my right, to not do something as a hobby. I prefer things that are fun and if I decide not to do them people don’t die. I prefer to watch those who do do the best job they can. And when I see deficiencies I bring them up.
    What about my neighbor who is handicap and can’t…shame on him?
    Just do your duty crew, run code and collect your per diem.

  • opiniontoshare

    I used the term “able-bodied”, as in able-bodied people.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    ciitizens – FIRST – have the right to know the status of the fire/EMS… response times.. staffing levels at the stations near them etc. and THEN once they know enough about the status, they have OPTIONS to include, volunteering, or paying more for the service, in general deciding what level of service they want – and are willing to provide resources for

    as opposed to not having enough information to start with to be able to make an informed decision.

    that’s been my rant from day one.

    that’s what I mean by transparency and accountability –

    when we have a system that does not even provide response time statistics and the running areas are arbitrary boundaries that have virtually nothing to do with response times then I’m not sure how one would expect citizens to participate meaningfully in decisions about resources verses service.

    When the folks who provide the service – think that they are the owners of the service – rather than the folks receiving the service then we have a problem.

    Mr. Barnes and the BOS finally recognize this and sound like they intend to embark on a more customer-focused course – which is in my view “good government”.

    A 9-member commission will bring a better balance IMHO.

    but it’s not going to be a smooth ride.. I predict..

  • Sam

    Ok Larry I’ll go out on a limb.

    I think you’re right, it’s going to be rocky at best. I think it’s time for a leadership change. Chris is a nice guy, but as we say ,theres alot of nice guys in the Fire Service. I don’t think he can make the needed changes, but he does know the players and his way around the county (figuratively speaking). I’d hate to see him leave on bad terms but it may be necessary at this growth stage. Maybe he can do a Dr.Jekyl & Mr. Hyde and come in one day with a baseball bat and make the changes needed.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Oh.. Mr. E must be a pretty agile sort to have survived until this point and it sure looks like he’s got the CA and the BOS lined up behind him – and his role more now than before.

    All he has to do is hold what he has until the state does it’s new report and the new 9 member commission starts processing changes they support… he’s not in a bad spot is he?

  • Sam

    Sure he’s in a bad spot, you bet. He’s ultimately accountable for the actions and inactions. Thank goodness for meeting minutes in his case,LOL. I think it’s massive removing his power from the board, what does that say?. What did he do or not do?.
    I don’t mean to ‘stir the pot’ when I say all this , and by no means does the Fire and Rescue need that at this time. But something is afoot and I think the Board of Supervisors are eager for results, results that couldn’t be accomplished prior to lastnight.

  • Sam

    Martin (Marty)

    Well said sir. Maybe, the new face of the F&R commision, will take your plea into consideration, doubtful but maybe.

    ***Do you hear him BoS? Allowing too much ‘behind closed doors’ and look at where it got you, Be more upfront with the public ,they can take it they’re adults.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    SAM: you can call me Marty and I’ll call you SAM.

    LARRY: when one or many are regarded as “owners” of a business or service, and hold themselves to that level of responsibiliy and accountability, you get better management (without excuses), focus, and a team (not teams) worth their weight in gold, and all WE have to do is empower them to get the job done, at the end of any day or night.

    If the BOS is unwilling to take responsibility for the assignments we empowered them with, what good are they in their world of “no comment?”

    Ownership can do a lot of good, but only if it’s shared and includes ALL those who have an interest in knowing and need to make informed decisions, without compromise or predjudice.