Which fire department should cover southern Buckingham County?

DILLWYN – Lawrence Kidd has done the math. From his home at 1753 Sawmill Road in Buckingham County, it’s 18 minutes away from Dillwyn Fire Department. It’s 22 minutes away from Toga Volunteer Fire Department. Because he lives closer to the county line, it’s only six miles or 9 minutes away from Farmville Volunteer Fire Department. 

“Why would anyone think it was appropriate to call two fire departments that are farther away?” he asked Buckingham supervisors at their Monday, Feb. 13 meeting. 

Other Buckingham County residents tell similar stories. Because of where their homes are located, Farmville or Prospect fire departments can get to the scene quicker than other operations in Buckingham. All total, 654 residents are affected by the issue. 

Terry Buchanan is one of those. He owns a small farm in Buckingham, also in the Lower Francisco Fire District. As an emergency volunteer, he’s responded to three fires since he’s been in the area. In all three cases, Prospect Fire Department in Prince Edward County was the first on scene. 

All of this matters because of a change requested by Prospect Assistant Chief James Redford. In a letter to Buckingham County Administrator Karl Carter, Redford argued that valuable time is lost while following the current process. 

Currently, when a fire happens in southern areas of Buckingham County, there are times when the 911 call goes to the Farmville Emergency Communications Center, as that is closer. But because it’s a different county, the ECC first transfers the call to the Buckingham County sheriff’s dispatch center, who immediately dispatches the nearest Buckingham department and Farmville or Prospect (or sometimes both) are requested to give assistance.

What Redford proposes for Buckingham County

However, Redford argues in those situations, it would make more sense if the Farmville ECC could dispatch immediately. As soon as they receive the call, he proposes the ECC should be allowed to identify which department, either Farmville or Prospect, is closer and dispatch them to the scene. The only difference between that and the current situation is now the departments have to wait until Buckingham officially requests help. 

“To prevent further delay in response, I am requesting that permission be granted to Farmville ECC, to allow them to dispatch those respective agencies without having to be specifically requested by Buckingham County,” Redford wrote in his letter. “Thus resulting in quicker fire response into the Lower Francisco Fire District. Of course the Farmville.ECC 911 dispatcher will still follow the proper protocol of “transfering the call” to (the) Buckingham sheriff’s dispatch center in these scenarios. Once this permission is granted, Farmville ECC will be dispatching according to the most recent map data that was agreed upon by the responding chiefs.” 

Chiefs say let them find a solution

Now to be clear, this is a request from one assistant chief of a fire department in Prince Edward County. It did not come from the county or either of the fire chiefs of the respective departments. The chiefs of Arvonia and Toga say they understand the concerns. But instead of asking the county to step in, before departments even have a chance to talk, they want a chance to better understand the situation and find a solution. 

“A local automatic mutual aid agreement should be documented and agreed upon by the fire departments that will have direct interaction,” said Arvonia Chief Chris Davis. He pointed out that hasn’t happened yet, nor has an actual request gone out to the departments for a discussion to take place. 

Davis, who has lived and volunteered in Buckingham for the last 35 years, asked supervisors to let the fire chiefs sit down and come up with an answer. The chiefs of all fire departments in Buckingham County meet once each quarter with County Administrator Karl Carter and the Department of County Emergency Services. That next meeting is Monday, March 20. 

“I’m in favor of efforts designed to reduce delays and response times during emergencies,” Davis said. However, he cautioned supervisors that “good intentions with a bad plan will be a disaster for us all.” 

Glenmore Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Lily had a similar take. He pointed out that Glenmore dealt with a similar issue several years ago with Scottsville.  

“Let us work on it,” Lily said. “You take where Glenmore is and the Scottsville bridge, we’re not gonna beat them there. But we’ve got an agreement, we dispatch them, they’re there and we’re coming.” 

What happens next? 

Buckingham supervisors unanimously agreed with the chiefs. 

“Why don’t we let the fire departments, let the chiefs get together and work the problem out?” Buckingham Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Chambers said. “We just want to see the citizens protected.” 

Supervisors voted 7-0 to send the issue to the fire chiefs meeting in March. The fire chiefs are being asked to examine the issue, make a recommendation and bring that back to the supervisors, where a final vote will take place later this year.

Buckingham

Executive Order 31: How will Youngkin’s decision affect elections?

Education

Multiple Farmville students honored by colleges

Columns

Grateful Boomers return to Bald Knob

College

Longwood softball uses transfer portal, adds three signees

Buckingham

Heat index could reach triple digits. Here’s where to find cooling centers

Buckingham

VA Assembly changes law for farmers with unregistered vehicles

Columns

Mike Wilson: It all started with a Hampden-Sydney lecture

Buckingham

Buckingham supervisors say ‘wait and see’ on duplex question

Buckingham

Bob Good won’t concede in 5th District, calls for ‘a full investigation’

Lifestyles

Sorority takes part in tree planting ceremony

Celebrations

June Employee of the Month recognized

Cumberland

Will a speed study work in Cumberland near the courthouse?

Business

High Bridge Solar project gets decision from Farmville council

Celebrations

Glenn honored with Farm Award

Business

Farmville town council makes decision on land bank proposal

Buckingham

Gloria Witt gets strong support in 5th District Democrat primary

Local

Final order filed in Prince Edward County flagpole appeal

Business

McFarland Lane rental project gets approved by Prince Edward

Lifestyles

Past experiences ‘make me uniquely qualified’

Buckingham

5th District Republican primary results not expected to change

Farmville

Juneteenth celebrations start

Business

Piney Grove Solar project gets approval in Prince Edward

Buckingham

Are shops coming to New Canton? Supervisors approve plan

Buckingham

‘Kitchen sink’ approach continues after latest fatal Route 60 crash