Some improvements being made for Petersburg fire

Petersburg’s fire department has faced a lot of challenges in recent months, from staff shortages to equipment problems.
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:19 PM EST
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Petersburg’s fire department has faced a lot of challenges in recent months, from staff shortages to equipment problems.

Now some of those issues are getting addressed. One of main issues Petersburg Fire is looking to resolve is adding a fire chief. Tina Watkins was the last one to take on the role, but she left at the end of 2022 after serving for less than a year.

The city of Petersburg says it has received 14 applications for the position, but doesn’t have a hard deadline for when it plans to fill the opening. Right now, Chris McGann is serving as acting fire chief.

The department is also trying to get a handle on the staffing shortages it has faced for months.

Petersburg Fire Association says the city is meeting the minimum requirement for how many firefighters need to be staffed for each shift. That means there are at least 17 firefighters working each day across Petersburg’s four fire stations.

The department currently has 55 employees but also has 21 vacancies, according to the city.

“Staffing shortages are an issue nationwide. The city of Petersburg Fire Department to the Local 2773 understanding is that we have five new entry-level firefighters starting on Monday and the city is currently seeking entry-level firefighter positions,” said James Vick, who serves as the president of the Petersburg Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Even as the search continues, there are still changes in the works designed to help better serve the community.

“At this time, Local 2773 believes that morale is improving within the department,” Vick explained.

There are also upgrades coming for the equipment. Just this week, funding was approved to purchase a used aerial ladder truck as well as a new fire engine.

“These new units will assist the fire department and Local 2773 in providing service to the citizens that they deserve,” Vick said.

The city expects to dish out more than $1 million for both vehicles. There is no clear timeline for when the new vehicles will be put into service. The city’s current aerial ladder truck is being repaired and will stay in service, even with the new addition.

“It replaces it when it’s out of service for maintenance or whatever it may be - preventative maintenance or a mechanical failure - it’ll be placed in service at that point in time,” Vick said.

Firefighters will have to go through specialized training before they can start using that equipment.