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Right now, the Fluvanna County Rescue Squad is operating under a provisional license after failing an inspection on May 6. The squad failed due to insufficient record-keeping and dirty and unkempt equipment, according to information provided by Michael Berg of the Virginia Office of Emergency Services. The ambulances in question were taken out of service, the issues addressed, ambulances re-inspected and passed.
But record-keeping remains an issue and on Monday (July 29) state inspectors will return to see if that deficiency has been addressed to the state’s satisfaction. If not, the Fluvanna Rescue Squad’s license to operate will expire July 31, Berg said.
Fluvanna rescue, which has been in existence for at least 40 years, hopes to survive the crucial inspection and other issues it’s now facing.
Not passing inspection isn’t “an option,” according to an email from Jamie Stafford, president of the Fluvanna County Rescue Squad, Inc.
“A meeting of all Fluvanna County membership was held in order to provide readout of all action items required from VAOEMS in order to pass our re-inspection and membership rallied around an action plan to ensure such items were cared for in time to meet the July 29 deadline,” Stafford wrote.
That is not the end of the state’s involvement, however.
Berg acknowledged his office is investigating complaints that Fluvanna Rescue did not respond to several calls for service on May 25, July 4 and July 6, despite being on call.
Fluvanna County is covered by two volunteer rescue squads under the county’s designated emergency response authority: Lake Monticello Volunteer Rescue Squad – which has passed all inspections and has been lauded for how it operates – and Fluvanna County Rescue Squad. Both are separately owned corporations supplemented by taxpayer’s funds.
Lake Monticello volunteers cover the entire county from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. On nights (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.), weekends and holidays Lake Monticello is responsible only for covering the Lake area and as backup to Fluvanna Rescue. Fluvanna Rescue takes over the rest of the county on nights (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.). Fluvanna Rescue is responsible for covering the rest of the county from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, weekends (6 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday) and holidays.
According to several sources, Fluvanna Rescue was on call May 25 (the day of Fluvanna High School graduation), July 4 and July 6, but did not respond to calls for emergencies. Lake Monticello eventually responded to the calls, but the people in distress had to wait nearly an hour for service, according to sources.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Fluvanna Review asked the 911 Communications Center for records of calls for service on those dates, but the information was received too late to include in this story.
Stafford answered a question about the situation.
“The response on this is ‘Yes, we did fail to take calls on the dates stated’ however, this is a two-fold answer: 1) Due to lack of available members, we were not able to field a complete crew and respond accordingly 2) There was a miscommunication between FCRS, LMVRS and 911 communications as to the availability of a crew, therefore, leading to an extended response time by a next due crew,” Stafford wrote in an email.
Berg would not comment on an ongoing investigation or on any action that may be taken by his agency in the event Fluvanna Rescue is found to be at fault.
Sources have also said that Fluvanna Rescue Squad’s Chief Officer James Davis has been living in the Kents Store rescue building. The Review asked Stafford and Davis to respond to that concern.
Davis did not respond.
Stafford answered: “This is a private matter, has been addressed between FCRS and our County
Administrator…thus, no further comment will be made.”
The Review sent Stafford’s answer to County Administrator Steve Nichols for comment.
“To my knowledge, the issue has not been resolved,” Nichols responded in an email.
Fluvanna County Emergency Services Coordinator Cheryl Wilkins said it is not unusual for firefighters or rescue personnel to stay in a county facility for a short time due to an emergency or housing conflict.
Like many volunteer squads, Fluvanna Rescue has had trouble attracting and retaining enough volunteers. There are fewer than 20 active volunteers staffing Fluvanna Rescue.
In June 2012, officials from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs spent two days in Fluvanna conducting an audit of Fire and Emergency Services in the county. In response to the dearth of volunteers and following suggestions made as a result of the audit, the Board of Supervisors approved funds to hire Wilkins and paid staff.
Wilkins said those workers will start soon. “We will continue to work to strengthen our volunteer recruitment, training and retention,” Wilkins wrote in an email. “To assist with the current shortage, the county has contracted with UVA for a crew to provide rescue squad services together with Lake Monticello rescue and Fluvanna rescue. They will be coming on board in the coming weeks.”
Wilkins said she is working together with both Lake Monticello and Fluvanna Rescue to ensure Fluvanna citizens are safe.
“The county is committed to supporting all of our emergency services,” Wilkins said in an email. “The two most important groups are the citizens of Fluvanna County who need services and the dedicated volunteers who provide those emergency services.”
And in the event Fluvanna Rescue’s license expires?
“We always plan for the possibility of changing requirements for emergency services in the county,”
Wilkins wrote. “We hope and expect that Fluvanna Rescue will receive full licensure on July 29, but if not, we are prepared with other coverage options.”