The Halifax Volunteer Fire Department is in need of more manpower according to an annual report for 2019 presented during Halifax Town Council’s work session Tuesday evening.
Fire chief Darryl Dawson gave the report.
Dawson shared that the fire department currently has 39 members, 25 of which are active members. He said one of the department’s long-term goals is to have paid staff during the daylight hours to decrease response times.
“We average 3.21 personnel during the daylight hours. We’re very shorthanded in the daytime,” Dawson said. “We average 6.25 personnel in the evening hours.”
The department had to stop running EMS calls in the springtime because of lack of personnel to respond to the calls, Dawson told council.
“We were getting dispatched to probably 750 to 800 EMS calls a year. We didn’t have the manpower to take care of it, especially in the daytime,” Dawson said. “We found it feasible to just drop the EMS until we get more help. We’re looking to try to get back to EMS (calls) as far as protecting citizens of Halifax and surrounding areas.”
Dawson reported that last year, the fire department answered 228 calls for service, including 187 fire calls and 41 EMS calls. The breakdown of those calls is as follows: 15 structure fires, 18 brush/field fires, 40 motor vehicle crashes, five car fires, 20 false alarms, 74 mutual aid calls and 15 miscellaneous calls.
The department estimated the value of property saved in 2019 at $1,222,010. A total of 830.05 manhours was accrued by the department in 2019, and the department’s six vehicles registered a total of 2,709.15 miles driven. The department used a total of 23,320 gallons of water for fire suppression and 10,000 gallons of water for training.
Some of the long-term goals of the department are trying to retain volunteers and recruit new members, and eventually replacing one of the department’s tankers, which is currently 24 years old, Dawson said.
He added that the department plans to use the $25,000 in capital funds it has received from Halifax County to remodel the fire station bathroom and replace the floor tiles. The fire station building was constructed in 1989.
Mayor Dexter Gilliam thanked Dawson and the other members of the volunteer fire department for all their hard work throughout the year.
“Chief, I’d like thank y’all, all of you, for everything that y’all do,” Gilliam said. “If I’m not mistaken, the record-keeping on that equipment is pretty meticulous and y’all are subject to inspection on that…and all of that stuff is being done by volunteers.”
Gilliam also noted that the training requirements for firefighters are becoming more stringent, placing more constraints on their time as volunteers.
Dawson responded that many of the volunteer firefighters work two jobs in addition to being members of the department, so the department allows them to complete the training requirements on their own timetable.
Council also discussed the following items in Tuesday’s work session:
• Southside Planning District 2045 rural long-range transportation plan;
• An update on Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Smart Scale Project and Halifax Downtown Streetscape Extension Project/ Halifax Courthouse renovation project;
• Virginia Main Street Approach: Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development 2020 commercial district affiliate grant applications due March 16;
• An update on VDOT and Norfolk & Southern U.S. Highway 501 railroad crossing conditions;
• Halifax Hyrdo-Electric Dam communications with the owner of KEI Power Management, USA;
• A regional hazard mitigation plan for Halifax County, the town of Halifax and the town of South Boston;
• The town’s 2020 finance report; and
• Upcoming Town of Halifax Farmer’s market activities including spring bazaar on April 4, free community paper shredding on April 23 and an April 25 Earth Day extravaganza.