Fauquier Firefighters’ open letter to Board of Supervisors

facebook Share on Facebook July 22, 2015 - Honorable members of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors,The Fauquier County Professional Firefighters express our deepest concernregarding the injuries firefighters suffered at a structure fire on Sunday, July 19. Our profession is inherently dangerous and we remain passionate about constantly improvingour system and ourselves to provide the safest environment possible. We have reachedout to the Board of Supervisors, the Department of Fire Rescue and EmergencyManagement (DFREM), and the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (VRFA) onnumerous occasions of the past few years. In these requests, we have asked for anincrease in staffing, 24 hour command staff, and a unified rank structure. While weunderstand there are economic, financial, and higher prioritized variables out of anyone’s control, we fear that the potential for further injuries may increase without immediateaction. We firmly believe this is an opportunity for all parties to develop a unifiedsolution and eradicate at least some risk to our first responders.

Over the past 5 years, every volunteer chief in Fauquier County has requestedstaffing to supplement the volunteers. A majority of these requests have been denied ordelayed indefinitely. We currently operate with two career personnel in a station, and attimes, respond to working fire incidents with just those two on fire apparatus when thenational standard is a minimum of 3 per responding piece. Due to the nature of thevolunteer system, there are times when volunteers are unable to respond, resulting in anunderstaffed incident. The volunteer chiefs submitted a 5 year staffing plan calling for anincrease in staffing, within two years the plan was abandoned by the board. The lack ofcommand supervision in our current staffing situation constantly leads to a breakdown inthe chain of command during night and weekend hours. The request has been made toimplement additional battalion chiefs to fill this void, a request that has not been filled.Sufficient staffing directly effects responder safety, and upon the conclusion of theinvestigation of this incident, we encourage every board member to thoroughly evaluatehow emergency responses are staffed and what could be changed to minimize risks.

In recent months, we have made requests that a unified rank structure bedeveloped and implemented. This rank structure would align the volunteer and careerresponders based on certification level and experience. As of right now, every volunteerorganization requires different standards for members and officers than the qualifications career personnel need. A solid minimum standard would provide a concreteunderstanding of the capabilities of every member within the fire and rescue system. Weencourage a close look at the benefits of such an action and the health and safety risksthat would be alleviated if implemented.

In light of the recent injuries the firefighters suffered, the reality of the hazardsour jobs entail as well as the obvious risks our system and its shortcomings present, wefeel compelled to publicly request that the aforementioned issues be evaluatedmeticulously. With safety concerns higher than ever, we respectfully request the board preliminary evaluate serious risks and immediately put measures in place to resolve them prior to the conclusion of the extension investigation. Countless concerns and requestshave been made in the past but little action has been made to mitigate these issues. Ourlocal is available to discuss this with DFREM, the Board of Supervisors, and the VFRA.Respectfully,

Sam Miller, 
President
Fauquier County Professional Firefighters - IAFF Local 3762 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(540) 327-3768

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