Letter to the Editor: Firefighters Association sets the record straight

Published 12:00 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part letter to the editor from the Buckingham County Firefighters Association Board of Directors, sent in response to Horace Wayne’s “It’s My Sandbox” letter last week.

Dear Editor,

The recent letter to The Herald (‘It’s My Sandbox,’ May 4, 2023 Edition) had so many mistakes and assumptions, not to mention an insult to the 120+ volunteer firefighters in Buckingham County, that it needed to be answered with facts. Here goes.

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At its February meeting, the Buckingham Board of Supervisors asked the chiefs of the Buckingham Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs) to examine issues related to fire response in the southern portion of Buckingham. To examine these issues, the Chiefs Working Group(CWG) – comprised of the four Buckingham VFD chiefs and assistant chiefs, Buckingham County Administrator Karl Carter, EMS Chief Cody Davis and IT Manager Jamie Shumaker – met with Buckingham Dispatch Supervisor Sam Davis, Farmville VFD Chief Dan Clark, Prospect Chief Al Mason and Asst. Chief James Redford, and Randolph Chief Ray Winn.

This cordial and productive meeting took place March 20 and the Buckingham chiefs presented their findings at the April 17 meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Anyone wishing to view that presentation can find it on the Toga VFD Facebook page or on the Buckingham Board of Supervisors YouTube channel (fire discussion starts at about the 44 minute mark).

Here are the facts:

The attendees of the March 20 meeting were briefed on the Buckingham VFD Response Protocols, developed and enacted by the VFDs in November 2019.

There was a thoughtful discussion of the issues referred to the CWG by the Board of Supervisors.

The result was a unanimous opinion by ALL VFDs present that the system is working well and does not need to be modified.

Beyond that meeting, there are several other facts that need to be stated.

When any Buckingham County resident dials 911 from a landline, that call goes directly to Buckingham Dispatch, not Farmville. This has been the case for a number of years.

According to Buckingham County Dispatch data, in 2022 there were 33 calls requiring a VFD response in the southern portion of the county. Of those, 20 were Priority 1, requiring a multiple company response. Thirteen were Priority 2, requiring a single company response.

According to Buckingham dispatch data, only two calls originated from Farmville Emergency Communications. All other calls went directly to Buckingham dispatch.

Cell calls run through the closest cell tower and those calls also went to Buckingham dispatch, all but twice. In those two calls, the “handoff” went smoothly.

In November 2019, the Buckingham VFD response mapping and protocols went live. This was the result of 18 months of work, developing a scientific approach to resolving response issues. That led to a GIS-based mapping solution, backed up by equally robust dispatch protocols. Now four companies respond to all structure fires, two respond to haz-mat incidents and three to brush fires. Three companies now respond to motor vehicle accidents.

Because of this, Buckingham citizens have a more robust fire protection response than any time in our history. The VFDs have a strong relationship with the Board of Supervisors and we thank them for their support of our mission.

Brian Bates

President of the Buckingham County Firefighters Association Board of Directors