Volunteers are Vital to Wintergreen Fire & Rescue
By Curtis Sheets, Chief of Wintergreen Fire and Rescue
As the resident population of Wintergreen continues to grow, and to age, our call volume over the years has marched upwards with a slow but steady grind. Yet, over a fifteen year period our paid staff levels have increased by less than quarter of a full-time equivalent employee each year. This statistic is especially impressive considering Wintergreen Fire and Rescue staffs every minute of every day.
How have we kept the staffing levels low? We use volunteer assistance on over 90 percent of our calls. Our volunteers have training that runs the full gamut from driver to medic. They also provide the critical link to the greater Wintergreen community. I say greater community because several of our volunteers live in the area, but aren’t Wintergreen property owners.
Typically every ambulance has a volunteer driver. In some cases the entire crew are volunteers. Major fires at Wintergreen often have as many volunteers on-site as there are staff members.
Wintergreen is not seeing the flow of volunteers we once had and our experienced volunteers are getting older. In recent years we weren’t always certain our volunteer fire department could be maintained, but people stepped forward.
Volunteer levels remain too low. We’re able to answer all of our Wintergreen calls. We could do so in a far more efficient manner if we had more volunteers. We occasionally have had to operate in a manner not in full compliance with state standards. (The state is aware of our deficiencies and our correction efforts.)
Our volunteer challenge certainly isn’t unique to Wintergreen. Volunteer public safety systems all over Virginia are struggling. Municipalities are scrambling to find good EMS providers and we’re a fertile training ground. Retaining our highly-skilled career staff a challenge.
Having capable volunteers is more important now than ever as our calls are becoming more frequent and more severe. It is about more than Wintergreen fire and rescue volunteers saving the property owners approximately $200,000 in labor costs yearly. (Annual owner assessments are held down by at least $50 per owner.) It's about Wintergreen continuing to be the driven by those in our community who appreciate Wintergreen as a special place that is both exciting and relaxing, but always safe.
What makes Wintergreen different from other communities is that it is full of critical thinkers who are used to rolling up their sleeves and getting things done. The Wintergreen community can, and will, meet these challenges. Join us.
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