Provided by Prince William County
Prince William County has a proud tradition and long standing reliance upon volunteer fire and rescue companies helping to protect the residents of our community. Today, fire and rescue calls for service are answered by a combination system of career staff employed by the Department of Fire and Rescue and volunteers working together to protect citizens and property in the County.
The selfless commitment of volunteers, who provide invaluable fire and rescue coverage on evenings and weekends, greatly reduces the cost that would otherwise be borne by taxpayers in order to provide adequate staffing. This combination system is managed through the Fire and Rescue Association (FRA), which is a collaborative organization comprised of volunteer company fire chiefs and the chief and selected staff of the Department of Fire and Rescue.
The County has grown substantially in population over the recent decades. This growth has generated an increase in the number of calls for fire and rescue service. At the same time, the nature of the service demands has increased in complexity and has required greater attention to regional planning and response readiness. Further, training requirements for all responders (career and volunteer) have become more time consuming to address the growing level of service demands.
Unfortunately, this evolution has placed significantly greater demands on volunteers. Some volunteer companies are having difficulty maintaining adequate staffing. Anecdotally, we are told that the training requirements for volunteers are so significant that once a volunteer is properly and fully trained, they are “plucked” by career fire departments throughout the region.
These and other issues have resulted in two volunteer departments (Coles Volunteer Fire Department and the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department) recently electing to merge with the Department of Fire and Rescue. These mergers are a concern to the Board of County Supervisors, which has stated that its goal is to preserve and to support the current combination system and its volunteer members.
In order to determine the most effective way to maintain volunteer service and to meet the demands of our growing community, the Board directed county staff to work with the FRA to ascertain whether the current framework of the fire and rescue system in the County is the best alternative for supporting the volunteer companies and fostering the collaboration necessary to provide the level of fire and rescue services required by the community and the region. Quite simply, the system today has evolved from a community run effort to an intricate and sophisticated system requiring greater organizational structure.
To that end, a subcommittee of volunteer chiefs and members of the Department of Fire and Rescue will examine the current system and provide recommendations to the FRA and ultimately to the Board of County Supervisors. In order to ensure that this analysis is informed by all perspectives in the community, the subcommittee will hold several facilitated public meetings over the next several months. Career and volunteer fire and rescue personnel, county residents, and any other interested parties are encouraged to attend these meetings and provide input into the review process.
The meetings will occur on several Thursday evenings over the next few months, with a final work product and recommendation tentatively scheduled for September 2016.
The first facilitated meeting will be held on Thursday, April 21, from 7:00 – 8:30 p. m. at the Buckhall Volunteer Fire Department at 7190 Yates Ford Road, Manassas. More information about upcoming meetings, additional opportunities for providing input and regular updates on the progress of the committee will be posted on the county’s website at pwcgov.org/fireservice