Removal of Branchville Firefighters Likely to Go Ahead

Branchville Fire Company

In last nights Council worksession, we discussed the planned removal of 4 career firefighters from Branchville Fire EMS station.

Recently, the City received word that the County will be removing the full-time career staff personnel from the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) as well as three other VFD’s from around the County as of March 1, 2013.

As we’ve found out since, the reason for doing this is due to negotiations with the union representing the career fire staff and out of safety concerns. As Chief Bashoor explained, safety standards require that, if a fire truck goes to respond to a fire, there should at minimum be four staff on that truck so that, once they arrive at the fire, two people can go inside the building and two people can stay outside to watch and support the others as needed.

In order to meet these safety requirements at all fire stations where there are career personnel, the County is shifting career personnel out of these four stations and moving them to other stations that have career personnel but that are generally understaffed. The four stations were selected based on which stations have at least six other stations within a 7-minute maximum response time parameter.

At last week’s NCPCA meeting, residents raised a number of concerns about the proposal, including whether the other stations in the area have the capacity to pick up the additional calls when, as well may happen when there are no career staff available to assist with answering calls, the Branchville volunteers are not able to respond to a call.

Also, as happened about 10 years ago when the county removed career staff from Branchville, there is a concern that the added burden would cause a strain on the existing volunteers. The last time this happened, some volunteers burnt out and left as a result. We hope that, if we are unable to prevent this plan from moving forward, that the plan will be temporary and that the County can put the resources into the Fire/EMS program to provide adequate staff at all fire stations.

From the discussion last night, it looks like the move is going to take place in early next month. However, Chief Bashoor told us he is looking at possible relocation of Branchville Fire EMS up north, some where close to north College Park. This will be along process, which depends on the approval of County’s budget in its CIP funds etc. I will keep you posted as things move in that direction.

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