The leaders of Loudoun’s fire and rescue department say it’s time to look again at how the agency is staffed and equipped.
“Stations need to be located based on identified time and response needs, instead of where maybe the next proffered site would be,” said Combined Fire and Rescue System Chief W. Keith Brower. “Staffing and deployment of resources and personnel needs to be based on recommended national standards and the ability of personnel to perform.”
He brought his concerns to the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee last week as part of an ongoing series of discussions on the level of service each county department is able to provide. The talks are intended to lay the groundwork for next year’s county budget deliberations.
Fire and rescue department representatives told supervisors the organization largely has remained stagnant since 2005. But the department has begun a push to make updates, including working toward a modern staffing system that hires slightly more employees than there are positions to better account for employees out with illness or injury, or on vacation.
At the newest fire station, Kirkpatrick West, supervisors approved funding for four firefighters to ride on a fire engine, matching national best practices, while the rest of the county still gets by with three.
The department will analyze its own staffing and response times to see where it falls short of the guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association. Department leaders also expects to establish different response times thresholds in some areas—such as Loudoun’s rural west, where homes are widely spread.
“We want to bring this to your attention because of the pending budget discussion, but also more important from my standpoint, frankly, we’re in the middle of a strategic planning process, the Envision Loudoun process,” Brower said, referencing the county’s ongoing work to update its comprehensive plan. “And you can’t have a comprehensive plan if you don’t talk about public safety and public safety needs.”