Chesterfield volunteer fire stations respond to fraction of calls

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR) — Chesterfield volunteer fire stations, which were built to improve response times and provide residents comfort, now only respond to calls a fraction of the time.

In fact, there are only two all volunteer stations still standing: the Wagstaff Circle Station off Atkins road and the Enon Station in Chester.

A CBS 6 investigation revealed that since July 2013, Wagstaff Circle has responded to calls in their area 9.23 percent of the time. The Enon Station responded to calls 7.79 percent of the time.

“Should residents in those areas be concerned for their safety,” CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George asked Chesterfield Assistant Fire Chief Robbie Dawson.

“No, absolutely not,” Dawson responded, saying that full-time, career firefighters are able to cover the workload of the volunteers.

However, Dawson said those numbers speak to dwindling volunteers in the County.

In fact, while over 500 Chesterfield residents used to volunteer to fight fires, today that number is 163.

Dawson said higher national standards make volunteering for a department harder than in years past.

“Training requirements when I first started were pretty small compared to the requirements today,” Dawson said.

But Dawson said the county is not considering consolidating the free standing units because when volunteers do respond, they can be lifesavers.

“The Fire service in the United States began as a service organization,” Dawson said.

7 comments

  • Ashleigh

    I hope that people realize that these volunteers are not only RISKING THEIR LIVES FOR FREE, but the reason they are only responding to 9% of calls is because THEY HAVE TO WORK ELSEWHERE TO PAY THEIR BILLS. They can’t be volunteering 24/7 to make it to 100% of calls…Maybe the residents concerned/complaining about this issue should you know, help out their community and volunteer themselves?

    • athynz

      Exactly! I have nothing but respect and admiration for the volunteer firefighters and EMTs connected to the volunteer fire departments that sacrifice their own time, money, and in some cases lives to take care of citizens in the event of a fire or other catastrophe. You and Kathy nailed it!

  • Thomas

    Good point Ashleigh except that service to the citizens of Chesterfield is not impacted by this. You have a full time department there that is available 24/7. The volunteers should be absorbed into the county department as auxiliary firefighters. Similar to where I live, the taxpayers are duped into thinking that their ambulance/fire service is provided by citizen volunteers as they receive unnecessary solicitation letters for donations from these organizations.

    • angie

      Thomas you called donations unnecessary soliciting. Volunteers save the county tons of money for their services. Where do you think your tax money goes where you live. It goes to support your local fire departments which means that your area probably pays more in taxes than we do. Even though there are paid stations through out the county who do you think runs the calls when the paid fire fighters are stretched out throughout the county fighting other fires or responding to other calls. Volunteers used to be the back bone of this country and it is sad that we as a society has gotten awa ?from that. Take the time and actually talk to, follow or become a volunteer before making a decision about volunteers.

  • Kathy

    As a mother of a son who is a volunteer firefighter for Chesterfield, this story is an abomination. My son has gone through an enormous investment of personal time and training with no compensation to provide vital acts of service. He has received Lifesaver awards and worked an incredible number of medical calls, car accidents and worked in dangerous situations at both structure and brush fires in our community. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to land a career job in this field. These volunteers have the same requirements, certifications, and ongoing training as the career staff. For you to try to put a negative spin on their selfless personal safety and financial sacrifices to volunteer their service is disgusting. I am proud of their hard work and dedication. Your statistics distort the truth, and I pray that these investigators never need volunteers like my son to be there at their time of need. If they did, this would be a different news story indeed.

  • Vol. FF w/CFEMS

    Thank you Ashleigh and Kathy, what they don’t talk about is what the volunteers actually do for the county…they don’t talk about the countless hours put in by people that have a true passion for helping the citizens around them(as do the career firefighters) yet these individuals do it for free. These individuals work full time jobs but still give up their free time to help others, and it is not only fire engines that they staff, it is brush trucks and other units as well. They also do not talk about the countless hours of training that are required by Chesterfield Fire & EMS so that they can keep their skills on the same level as those who are paid to do this job. I could continue to go on about this but will save that for later. I just hope everyone realizes how much the volunteers truly do to provide for this county and how much they sacrifice to do something that they truly love.

  • Lee

    The article is a little misleading – these two stations are the only all volunteer stations in the county however many of the remaining stations filled with career fire personnel also have volunteer staffing according to the CCFEMS site.The map also shows you how many other fully staffed stations surround these two volunteer stations so response time shouldnt be affected. Many stations get busy and therefore other nearby stations will have to cover each other from time to time-that is nothing new. I think the message should be 1-that volunteers require the same level of training as career which is a benefit to the community and 2-there is a need for more volunteers to sign up which can be a rewarding service.

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