CRC surveys fire, rescue depts.

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, September 26, 2018


The Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) is in the process of receiving surveys from area fire departments and rescue squads, and deliberating about the potential for a forum featuring volunteers to discuss challenges facing these agencies.

CRC Executive Director Melody Foster said during a meeting Sept. 19 that seven fire departments and two rescue squads responded to the surveys from the CRC, meant to find the specific challenges and strengths of area fire departments and rescue squads.

More responses are expected, Foster said. She said the CRC would report the results back the following month.

Foster said in the survey, she requested copies of the fire/rescue squads’ mutual aid agreement. Participants recommended contacting their counties for copies of the mutual aid agreements.

Questions on the survey include how many paid personnel each department has, if departments respond to aid in neighboring counties and if departments have a verbal or written mutual aid agreement with surrounding counties. Representatives also had the opportunity to provide additional comments or concerns.

CRC members discussed increasing incentives for volunteers, increasing education for the public about how fire departments and rescue squads operate, potentially holding a forum featuring area fire and rescue service members and speculating of a future where, potentially, all fire and rescue squad would have paid personnel, where volunteers would be a thing of the past.

Browns Store District Supervisor and CRC Member Mike Hankins noted that the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors recently approved the Kenbridge Fire Department to bill insurance companies.

“If you all have rural fire departments that are struggling financially, and especially if you have a population that’s beginning to dwindle down and they’re not getting the donations, I think this is looking at the future,” Hankins said. “It is not an answer to everything, but it can help the fire departments out greatly down the road.”

At the same time volunteer numbers are dwindling throughout the region, Hankins noted that costs to maintain fire departments’ and squads’ equipment are increasing, everything from diesel needed for the fire engines to rent on the buildings.

He said these mounting challenges facing fire and rescue departments could have an impact on property owners. “If you don’t own the property, you don’t have to worry about the insurance, but those of us who do, that’s an issue,” Hankins said.

Foster emphasized the importance of educating the public about the departments, particularly that many of the fire departments and rescue squads in one’s backyards are run by volunteers. Dwindling volunteer levels could mean trouble for property owners.

“There’s some education to the public that needs to happen as well as to what services are being provided for them,” Foster said.

Foster said one fireman in particular suggested the CRC put together a forum where they could all come together.

“It would be a discussion but maybe something could evolve from that,” Foster said.