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Fire and EMS changes coming to southern part of Cumberland

Calls for help due to fire or medical emergencies from Cumberland residents in the southern end of the county will soon be answered by Cumberland County first responders instead of Farmville or Prince Edward County personnel.

For many years emergency calls made near the Farmville border of the county have been answered by Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad (PEVRS) and Farmville Volunteer Fire Department (FVFD), but a new mutual aid agreement set to begin May 1 will end that arrangement.

Newly-appointed Chief of Cumberland Fire and EMS Tom Perry says the decision is part of a move to get Cumberland standing on its own two feet when it comes to emergency response and to bring operations in line with a 2018 Fire and EMS study conducted for the county by the Virginia Fire Services Board.

The mutual aid agreement, Perry explained during a Monday, April 26, interview, is an arrangement by which two localities agree to assist one another, whichever locality is requesting service at the time, with fire department or EMS services only as needed.

As an example, currently, a resident living in the Kimberly Hills area of the county would have their 911 calls sent to dispatch in Farmville, ultimately leading to PEVRS and/or FVFD responding to the call.

The mutual aid agreement, which Cumberland already has in place with counties like Goochland and Powhatan, means citizens at the southern end of the county will now have their 911 calls go to dispatchers in Cumberland County. Responding to those calls will be the Randolph District Volunteer Fire Department (RDVFD) and Cumberland Fire and EMS ambulances. PEVRS and FVFD will not respond to those calls unless a Cumberland department requests their help.

Some individuals are expressing concerns about the switch.

Deanna Jones, executive director of PEVRS, said Tuesday she was concerned the “decision to end the 50-plus year relationship” would lead to an increased response time for residents south of Holman Mill Road, adding PEVRS responded to around 235 calls in Cumberland County in 2020.

It was only recently residents of the northern end of the county learned the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad (CVRS) would be ceasing operations after 25 years of service to Cumberland and the Cartersville community.

CVRS, which recently could only provide 12-16 hours of service each week, will close its doors for good July 1.

However, a 12-hour paid crew will be stationed in the Cartersville area beginning May 1, the same day the mutual aid agreement will begin.

Perry said with two paid EMS units now in the county, officials feel the mutual aid agreement is a more fiscally responsible model to use, letting paid staff handle calls in the county while letting PEVRS, a much busier rescue squad, focus their efforts in the Prince Edward/Farmville area.

Perry said he’s confident the new crew coupled with the 24-hour paid crew currently stationed in the courthouse area will be sufficient to make sure citizen’s emergency services needs continue to be met.

He added while response times could increase slightly, the department does not expect any issues. 

“We expect the citizens in the south end of the county to continue to get that high quality service that they’ve been provided by PE rescue for years that they will receive from our paid staff.”

Should call volume prove difficult to handle, he added, the county will consider taking steps to switch to two 24-hour paid crews as necessary.

RDVFD Fire Chief Paul Adkins said Tuesday the department, founded in 2001, is pleased with the changes.

“RDVFD began responding to calls in 2003. Since that time, the department has responded to 100% of all calls,” Adkins noted. “We have wanted this change to our response area for many years and look forward to continuing to serve the citizens.”

Cayden Eagles, assistant fire chief for FVFD, said Wednesday the department’s responses to Cumberland makeup less than 5% of its total calls.

Eagles noted he is confident Cumberland Fire and EMS under Perry’s leadership will be able to refine response time in the coming years. He added though FVFD may not be dispatched right from the beginning, the department is committed to providing mutual aid to any agency which requests it.

“We look forward to continued work with Cumberland County,” he said.

“Our mission at PEVRS is to provide high-quality and timely emergency medical services for all residents of our community,” Jones added Tuesday. “We would be happy to continue offering this service should the county seek our continued assistance.”

The Cumberland County Fire and EMS study can be found on the county website at https://cumberlandcounty.virginia.gov/219/Fire-Emergency-Medical-Services.