Fire and rescue agencies in Augusta County are being transformed over the next few months. Federal grant money will pay the salaries of 21 new responders, who will offer round-the-clock fire and ambulance service throughout the county.
The county says full-time, paid staff should improve coverage and response times, but stresses that they will not replace volunteers. They've been on the job for the past month, training and serving side by side with nearly 1,000 volunteers.
By November 1, the Preston Yancey Fire Company in Fishersville will have 15 full-time employees, just enough to man one fire truck and one ambulance per shift.
"Those are very small numbers in case of a big event," said Augusta County Fire & Rescue Chief Carson Holloway. "That's why we do embrace the idea of rebuilding the volunteer system there, augmenting the career staff and working hand in hand as a team."
That's the job of Augusta County Fire Rescue Incorporated. The nonprofit will form an executive board to run the department, recruit new volunteers, and make sure they work seamlessly with paid responders.
"Our mission is now to support our career staff that are here and be of help running fire and rescue calls," said Wendell Coleman with Augusta County Fire Rescue Incorporated. "They're all professional, whether they're getting a paycheck or not, and they'll all have received the same training."
Yancey is not the only department to see major changes. More than $2 million in federal grant money is allowing Augusta County to hire 21 paid firefighters. They'll be scattered at departments throughout Augusta.
"All have been in training now for almost a month," Holloway said. "They're out in field, actively engaged in providing service each and every day. They haven't reached their final destination yet."
The Riverheads and Weyers Cave stations will be the next to get the full-time employees, whose primary responsibility will be to bring 24/7 ambulance service.
Augusta County Fire Rescue Incorporated invites neighbors to an open meeting at the Yancey fire station at 7:00 Thursday night. They'll appoint officers, share volunteer opportunities, and answer questions about all the changes.
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