Vastly different support needs cited by various departments, from zero to 18 paid providers

Frigid night to fight a fire — and be displaced

Volunteer firefighters battle a blaze in Scrabble in 2019.

Rappahannock County’s volunteer fire and rescue companies have been asked by the county government to go back to the drawing boards in justifying the extent of needs to supplement volunteers with paid staff.

At the behest of the board of supervisors, Rappahannock County Administrator Garrey W. Curry wrote to the Rappahannock County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association on Friday afternoon, recalling how the association advocated in February 2020 that local government funding be built into the county’s fiscal year 2021 budget.

In doing so, the association suggested three potential options for supplementing volunteers with paid personnel and the BOS ultimately included $300,000 in the FY2021 budget to support the paid EMS with a mixture of general fund- and fire service fund/fire levy-dollars.

The association since then has been reviewing one additional option to integrate paid EMS providers, however Curry pointed out that those proposals “appear to offer vastly different levels of service — incorporating as few as zero paid providers and as many as 18 paid providers — with vastly different potential cost implications. 

“The option suggesting 18 paid providers is founded on the Company 9 [Chester Gap] model, but does not align with the part-time employee costs of that program (≈ $10,000/month). I suggest refinement be considered for this option to better align its level of service with that which is required to meet the response requirements of the Fire and Rescue\EMS Service Agreement or some other clearly established response capability,” Curry wrote in part.

“In short, if a single chase buggy located at one station is deemed to be a suitable option, it is not clear why 18 providers assigned to stations across the county would be considered a comparable alternate option,” he pointed out. “A simple drive-time analysis indicates that EMS providers do not necessarily have to be guaranteed at all six volunteer companies that provide EMS services, but that guaranteeing them at only one station is probably inadequate.”

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Curry explained that the supervisors by unanimous consent this past Monday requested that he write to the association’s officers, fire chiefs and company board directors “to confirm that the board remains poised and willing to provide the funding necessary to augment volunteer EMS … ”

He stressed that the BOS are grateful for the association’s effort to “prepare a plan, schedule, and procedures for integrating such career staff” and would like to further evaluate proposals at the Jan. 4, 2021 supervisors’ meeting “with the intent to finalize plans” Feb. 1, 2021.

The association, headed by president Harold Beebout, is made up of seven companies with five combination fire and EMS agencies, one fire agency and one EMS agency. Each agency has three representatives and 3 alternates on the association.