Letter to the Editor: Why focus only on fire departments?

Published 10:52 am Friday, May 26, 2023

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Editor’s note: This is the second 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 two weeks ago about fire coverage and fire departments in southern Buckingham. 

Dear Editor, 

Mr. Wayne claimed that the Buckingham VFD’s, “just don’t want the neighbor kids playing in their sandbox, while our lives and property are at stake”. We think the facts prove his statement to be a bunch of unmitigated hogwash that does a tremendous disservice to the more than 120 volunteer firefighters in Buckingham County. There are 10 different VFDs that border Buckingham County and we work exceptionally well with all of these men and women on a routine basis. We have strong, respectful relationships with all of them. We value them and they value us. Period.

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But there is more data worth considering. In addition to the 33 VFD calls in the southern portion of Buckingham in 2022, there were 56 calls for Emergency Medical Service (EMS), including six pulmonary, six cardiac, a stroke and three seizure calls.

These EMS calls were handled by Buckingham County Emergency Service units responding from either Station 1 in Dillwyn or, if that unit was out on a call, Station 2 in Glenmore. There were 106 Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) calls in that area of the County in 2022 that included two hit & runs, eight verbal disputes and eight suspicious person calls, among others.

One might wonder why there has not been a peep from critics of the VFDs to have Prince Edward County resources responding to EMS and LEO incidents in the southern portion of Buckingham County. We are not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the way that Buckingham EMS and LEO respond to calls. But any reasonable person would wonder why those critics of the VFDs are not being equally critical of the EMS and LEO calls. 

Last fall, Supervisor Matthews sought to change the designation of the Buckingham County EMS to include firefighting, ostensibly in an effort to save money on overtime paid to the EMS employees of the County. The idea was brought to the VFDs to consider the pros and cons. The VFDs found doing what Supervisor Matthews was suggesting would have no positive impact on fire protection because the personnel would not be staffing fire apparatus, they would not have fire suppression equipment and would not be staffed at fire stations. 

The VFDs were unanimous that this would kill the volunteer fire service and end up costing the County taxpayer $6 million dollars or more per year to replace the volunteer departments with paid staff in the long term. The Board of Supervisors wisely let the issue die.

Within a month, Matthews began raising concerns regarding fire protection in the southern portion of Buckingham County. Coincidence? Perhaps. A cynic might think that, by asserting that there is inadequate coverage by the VFDs, Supervisor Matthews might be able to build support for the recently failed effort at renaming the EMS agency to include fire.  Reasonable people can disagree as to whether or not this is going on, but we are reminded of the old adage that says, ‘where there is smoke there is usually fire.’

Brian Bates

President of the Buckingham County Firefighters Association Board of Directors

Chip Davis

Vice President of the Buckingham County Firefighters Association Board of Directors