Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Fire and Rescue Study
The state study never mentions Sandy Hill or the Feb. 5 fire which killed her.
But throughout the report, several ghosts of that Chancellor area house fire appear.
The Virginia Fire Services Board spent two months studying Spotsylvania County’s Fire and Rescue Departments. Its review was presented to the Board of Supervisors moments ago and contains few surprises.
That February fire only comes up in phrases like “in response to recent events,” and a discussion on not following the standard operating procedures. Many of those SOPs were not followed in that fatal fire.
But this study isn’t about that fire, said County Administrator Doug Barnes. It’s an overall look at Spotsylvania’s rescue system, which operates with 117 career personnel and 240 volunteers.
And at times, the study is very positive about that system, saying:
“Fire and emergency services are provided to the citizens of Spotsylvania County through a strong combination system.”
But that combination system does not work cohesively, the report found. Emergency services are provided in the county through four departments: Spotsylvania County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management; Spotsylvania Volunteer Fire Department; Spotsylvania Volunteer Rescue Squad; and Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department.
Sometimes, the system goes in four different directions, the report said. The review team recommends that there be one chief in charge of all four departments. Fire and Rescue Chief Chris Eudailey is the single chief, according to county code. But Standard Operating Guidelines don’t give him authority over many issues in the departments.
The study also speaks to the culture of the fire and rescue departments, referring to a lack of morale, turf battles and personality conflicts. Collaboration and organization could help create a new and better culture, the report said.
According to the report, as of mid-November, Spotsylvania’s rescue workers have responded to 11,682 calls. Eudailey said that most of these calls are successfully handled, evidence of the strong system the report talks about.
The report makes several recommendations, including:
- Designating the career fire chief’s position as the “final authority for all Fire and EMS issues throughout the County.”
- Clearly defining the role of the Fire and EMS Commission.
- Developing a countywide strategic plan for fire and rescue services.
- Strengthening incident reporting to collect reliable data.
- Keeping the public better informed about both the system and ways to prevent fires.
- Creating a Fire and Life Safety Educator position.
- Making sure rescue stations are staffed around-the-clock.
- Continuing with the minimum training standards.
- Training fire fighters in emergency medical services.
- Reviewing and updating Standard Operating Procedures.
- Making sure everyone knows and follows those procedures.
- Improving volunteer recruitment efforts.
To see the study, click here.