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Buckhannon VFD extends coverage area

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Fire Department is now responding to structure fire calls in Banks District Volunteer Fire Department’s first-due area, a move that will better serve residents and businesses should an emergency arise.

Banks District Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Roby said his department has an active roster of 18 volunteer firefighters but many of them work out outside of the Banks District area during the workday.

That becomes an issue with manpower Monday through Friday and it’s a problem that most volunteer fire departments are facing, he added.

“We are trying to come up with different ways to make sure our community doesn’t suffer,” he said. “We have a huge area to cover and we still have a big population to cover.

“They [Buckhannon] are willing to come to help us, which they have a couple different times, I asked why not make that permanent? If the county and the city can work together, that’s a great thing.

“Buckhannon has been awfully good about coming and help us out. They are experienced. A lot of us are starting to see it, accept it and work together.”

At the last city council meeting, Buckhannon Fire Chief J.B. Kimble said, “Volunteerism is down nation-wide and the shortage of volunteer firefighters is not unique to Buckhannon, Upshur County or West Virginia.

“As we go through the years, some of our local volunteer fire departments are having troubles. Not all the time, but specific times of the day they have a real shortage of staff.

“Banks District and Selbyville are two departments that we don’t normally respond to automatically,” he said. “The chief of Banks District has asked us in a letter to send manpower on every structure fire in Banks District.”

Kimble said this would probably be a max of 15 calls a year.

“I’ve always said we have a typical 1 minute 45 second response time and we can drive quite a bit of mileage in eight to 10 minutes which is a typical volunteer fire department response time,” Kimble said. “It can make a big difference for them. I tell our guys, if we can make a difference, we need to make a difference. We are very blessed here with a good crew of men and women in our organization. They are well-trained. We have great equipment. We have a community that backs us. These other communities would drop everything and come help us.”

Kimble said the agreement is all about having enough firefighters to provide for safety on site of an incident.

In the past, the BFD might have been paged out to help but it would not be onto Banks District got on scene and accessed their manpower needs with their existing mutual aid departments.

“You are talking 10 to 15 minutes into the call, they would alert us to go and help them,” he said. “Why not auto dispatch us so our staff is en route immediately at the same time?”

“John recognized that was a positive thing for his community,” he said. “He asked for it. I just had to have to it in writing. It’s just like the fires we have here and we have mutual aid come and help us.” Kimble said the Buckhannon Fire Department is going through a years long national accreditation process under the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

“With the accreditation process we are doing, we have an effective response force number,” he said.

A single dwelling house requires about 15 people on the first alarm to have an effective force,” he said. “At Buckhanon, we average 11 people on every structure fire. Adrian gives us an average of five.”

That number goes up even more for high risk or special risk fires where 27 firefighters make an effective response force.

“John has realized a lot of times during the day he does not have an effective response force to cover,” Kimble said. “This is what is best for Station 4’s area that we can immediately respond with staffing. It’s a win-win for them.”

Not only has Banks District taken the proactive step of asking the BFD to be paged out on structure fire calls, but it was also the first volunteer fire department in the county to respond to Kimble’s request for info about their districts.

Kimble said he has asked every chief in the county to provide addresses to specific buildings in their district that would require the ladder truck so the BFD could better plan.

“John has provided that list to the Comm Center,” he said

Want to join the Banks District Volunteer Fire Department? Roby invites prospective members to stop by the first Thursday evening of the month and put in an application.

“We always need people,” he said.

Live closer to the Buckhannon Fire Department? Call 304-472-2868 to find out how to join the Buckhannon Volunteer Fire Department.

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