Rapp firehouse responds to far more 911 calls in Warren 

An emergency services funding split between Warren County and Rappahannock County for the Chester Gap Volunteer Fire Department, to cover personnel loss replacement and coverage issues related to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a topic of discussion at the most recent Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Royal Examiner, which covered the proceedings, reported: “Chester Gap takes calls in both counties and a small number in Fauquier County. Currently, the Rappahannock County government is covering the $10,000 per month cost of staffing support being offered in the wake of the department’s loss of six emergency services responders in March.”

“We’re seeking a reasonable split,” the newspaper quoted one Rappahannock representative as telling Warren County officials. 

Which Warren County has now granted Rappahannock County — for the near future, at least.

“We’ve always shared the services, now we share the cost, for which I’m grateful,” Rappahannock County Supervisor Debbie Donehey sums it up for the Rappahannock News. 

“This doesn’t change service — Warren County already gets help from Chester Gap,” explains Donehey, who represents the Wakefield district encompassing Chester Gap. “It simply adds Warren County’s contribution of CARES Act funding to Rappahannock’s helping to pay part-time EMT’s to replace volunteers we’ve lost.”

It was pointed out during the meeting that during 2019 Chester Gap Fire personnel responded to more calls in bordering Warren County (203) than it did in its own county of Rappahannock (177). Chester Gap also responded to 15 calls in Fauquier County last year.

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So far 2020 is no different, the Royal Examiner wrote, with Chester Gap making 130 responses in Warren, 66 in Rappahannock, and 11 in Fauquier.

“Interim Warren County Administrator Ed Daley told his board that through the end of the year it appeared that Coronavirus pandemic relief funding through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities) Act would cover the county’s $5,000 monthly share,” the newspaper wrote.

“However, he observed that as things stand now there are no assurances CARES Act relief will be extended into the 2021 calendar year, meaning the county would have to take $30,000 of the funding from its General Fund reserves through the last half of FY-21 if CARES reimbursements are not extended past December 2020.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Rappahannock County this year, Todd Brown, Chiefs Committee Chair of the Rappahannock County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (RCVFRA), and its president Harold Beebout pointed out in this newspaper that Chester Gap Fire “lost all of its volunteer EMTs because of the risks” of the spread of COVID-19.

“In order to maintain their ability to respond to our community Chester Gap has arranged to have one independent contract EMS responder for each shift from out of the county to fill in until their EMTs can return. Currently, a typical Chester Gap crew consists of unpaid volunteer drivers and firefighters plus one paid responder,” the officers said.

“We don’t intend to let the coronavirus stop us,” Rappahannock residents were assured.

The coronavirus has posed a considerable challenge to Rappahannock’s first responders, who the two RCVFRA officers pointed out “are putting themselves at risk on every call, especially EMS calls, as there is no way to know when a patient or the family may be carrying the virus.

“Our chiefs have been talking to their volunteers about the risks of continuing to volunteer. A number of our responders at higher risk — those over 65, those with underlying health conditions and those with family members at high risk — have stepped back for the duration of the pandemic.”

Given the additional strain, the several fire companies in Rappahannock are continuing to ask anybody who is physically fit and able to please volunteer to perform a multitude of needs in the county.