Once upon a time (in 2012), the Teays Valley Fire Department was an all volunteer fire department which was unable to respond to more than 59% of the emergency calls it received. That changed in 2013 when the Fire Department was awarded federal grant money to employ paid firefighters. Grant money is no longer available and other funding is not sufficient to maintain a full staff of paid firefighters.
On Thursday, July 27, Fire Chief John Smoot announced that 24/7 fire coverage will be reduced to 12/7 coverage beginning August 13. In a Facebook post, Smoot stated that TVFD cannot operate its firefighting vehicles at recommended capacity. Ideally, each fire truck should be dispatched to emergencies with four or more firefighters; at present, no more than two firefighters per truck attend an emergency call. The TVFD has two trucks available to respond to emergencies but not the personnel to operate them. Smoot and three other firefighters who were paid will continue with the department as unpaid volunteers.
Smoot said that the ambulance service which the TVFD operates will not be affected by the cutback in service.
The Facebook post states, “Without implementing significant changes, probability suggests that lives will be lost and property will be destroyed. Immediate action must be undertaken to ensure the safety of people and property in Teays Valley and all of Putnam County.
“The Devonshire apartment fire illustrates the severity of these risks. Arriving at the scene six minutes after it was dispatched, the Teays Valley Fire Department extinguished the fire quickly, thereby ensuring that no lives were lost and that the building was saved from total destruction. The subsequent investigation revealed that the outcome would have been disastrously different if firefighting efforts were delayed by as few as five minutes.
“Had recently implemented budget cuts been in effect at the time, the Department would not have been able to respond so quickly. A truncated budget will force the Department to eliminate 24 hour per day staffing of firefighters at its firehouse. In the future, should a fire occur at 3:00 a.m. on-call firefighters will have to be summoned to the station first before deploying to the emergency.”
Smoot said that the department is seeking volunteers but recruitment efforts have not produced results. Smoot is hopeful that the public safety levy which failed to receive the needed 60% approval last year can be approved by voters in a future election. The levy would provide funding for paid firefighters throughout the county.