CHATHAM — For a while, the fire truck was parked in front of the Pittsylvania County courthouse in protest over funding. Now, exactly three months after it was taken out of service, the future of the county’s Special Operations Team’s rescue truck has been decided.
With some small upgrades to the truck, and some additional training of the 30-member team assigned to it, the truck designated as Rescue One will be a specialized rescue and rapid intervention team for the southern end of the county.
And it will be done for 20 percent of the original asking price.
“That is there to help the firemen,” Pittsylvania County Public Safety Coordinator Chris Slemp said. “If we have a fireman declare mayday — get lost, fall through a floor, that team gets that fireman out. It’s a dedicated team.”
Blairs Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Dean Fowler parked the truck in front of the courthouse on Sept. 19 in protest of a 5 to 2 vote by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors to deny returning $116,000 to the Fire and Rescue budget for the equipment to stock the truck.
Those funds were instead used to create the position of the public safety coordinator — filled with Slemp last month — and to expand the contract with Regional One EMS to cover the northern end of the county. Both were done at the request of the Fire and Rescue Association, made up of the county’s 24 volunteer fire and rescue squads.
At the time of the vote, Fowler applauded the board of supervisors for creating the position for public safety coordinator and for getting the contract with the EMS provider to replace the now-defunct Altavista Rescue Squad. But he argued then that funds should not have been taken out of the Fire and Rescue budget.
Now he will not talk publicly about the truck.
“I don’t have an opinion,” he said. “It’s not going to get stated right anyway, so I don’t have an opinion.”
Slemp said the full cost of the upgrades will be “nowhere near” the $116,000 that was originally requested.
The estimate for a rapid intervention breathing apparatus, six air tanks and heavy duty extrication struts is $24,150. Those funds are currently available in the Fire/Rescue Vehicle capital account, with some money left over.
“We think it’s going to be a good venture. If it works down there, we’ll look into similar operations in other areas with a smaller truck,” Slemp said. “Eventually we’ll look at another truck because it’s a huge county geographically. We don’t need an air truck in every station, but we need to be able to respond all over.”
The upgrades and training are expected to be completed by March.
Staunton River Supervisor Elton Blackstock said the upgrades were a good choice by Slemp.
“I trust our new public safety coordinator to advise us and help the board and county administrator while working closely with the Fire and Rescue Association,” Blackstock said. “I’m comfortable with that decision.”
The truck will be housed at Blairs Volunteer Fire and Rescue.
Ceillie Simkiss reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at email@example.com or (434) 791-7981.