Hanover could cut five fire & EMS positions

By Matt Butner - bio | email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Hanover County's proposed budget cuts would drop five positions from the Fire and EMS department, dealing another blow to an outfit that is already stretched thin.

For firefighters at Station 7 near Mechanicsville, every day seems like an adventure.

"When you come in here every day, you never know where you're going to be," according to Battalion Chief Willie Jones.

"Today when people walk off sick, we get to the point where we have to pull staff from other areas," he added. "If it's 2 or 3 people ill due to the flu or something, we might have to do a 'brown-out' where a station goes out of service and we re-deploy those crews."

Jones says a temporary shut-down like this could pose a threat to public safety.

"It does hurt response time," he said. "(Station no. 7) probably runs 21 to 22 hundred calls a year.  We'll pick a station that may run only 300 calls a year, and actually you're playing the odds."

Other areas have suffered as well- safety inspections are down because fire marshals sometimes have to fill in as firefighters. The same goes for training staff, meaning less off-site and specialized training.

"It's something that we're managing. We're doing extraordinary measures, but it can't be accomplished for a long period of time," said Jones.

The bottom line for the department is that some things can be sacrificed, but the manpower to respond to calls is not one of them. They've come to rely on volunteer firefighters to help fill the gaps.

"What that gives us is, we get to put up an aerial ladder that may be out of service today, or a heavy rescue squad, or put more people on the engine companies," said Jones.

The department is getting by, doing more with less- and trying to keep a positive attitude.

"I think right now our morale is good," said Jones, "and I just hope it stays that way."

All of the county's agencies are going through the same thing- the Sheriff's department, for example, is losing 7 open positions.

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