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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Paid staff added to Boones Mill Fire and Rescue
Team answers emergency calls five days a week
Click to Enlarge
Photo by Brandon Osgood: Boones Mill Fire Chief Riley Peters (left) and Public Safety Chief of Operations Billy Ferguson (right) discuss ways to make the Boones Mill Fire and Rescue station more efficient with paid personnel.

Monday, August 5, 2013

By BRANDON OSGOOD - Special to the News-Post

The Boones Mill Fire and Rescue station now has a paid firefighter-medic team answering emergency calls on weekdays.

"Call volumes have steadily increased in recent years. As a result, response times were also increasing," said Chief of Operations Billy Ferguson with Franklin County Public Safety. "Franklin County decided to add additional career personnel and assigned them to the Boones Mill station."

"Boones Mill is a growing area, and we had numerous requests from residents to expand our professional services here," Ferguson added.

The firefighter-medics began work on July 15 and are manning the station Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Boones Mill Fire Chief Riley Peters said he has already seen improvements in efficiency with the addition of the career personnel.

The Boones Mill station is the latest one in the public safety department to add career personnel to their rosters. Glade Hill, Fork Mountain, Westlake and Rocky Mount (Franklin County Rescue) stations also have teams of firefighter-medics to answer calls.

The stations at Glade Hill and Fork Mountain are staffed with paid employees on the same schedule as Boones Mill, Ferguson said. The Rocky Mount station is staffed seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Westlake station is staffed with paid personnel seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The goal is to evenly distribute paid personnel throughout the county, Ferguson said. Public safety staff analyzes data on call volume, distance from other stations, response times and the number of volunteers at each station to determine where the career personnel are placed.

"Volunteers are still a vital part of our department," Ferguson said. "But the number of volunteers is steadily decreasing, not only in Franklin County but across the nation, especially during daytime hours. Yet the number of calls is increasing substantially."

In 1990, public safety responded to 968 calls for service, Ferguson said. Last year, fire and EMS calls totaled 9,330 in the county. Public safety responds to an average of 36 calls each day, he added.

The decline in volunteers is a national problem, Ferguson said. People are busier now than they were 20 years ago, and the training requirements for volunteers are rigorous.

"Our paid personnel supplement our volunteer program," Ferguson said. "In the end, our job is to provide the best possible service to our residents."

The funds for the additional paid staff come from the EMS Revenue Recovery fees, Ferguson said. Those transport fees are billed to patients' insurance companies, which helps keep day-to-day costs for the department down.

Even with the increase in paid emergency staff in the county, volunteers are always needed. Anyone interested in volunteering at any fire and rescue station in the county should contact public safety at 483-3091.

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