Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
The 1999 Study of Spotsylvania County’s Fire and Rescue combined system
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.