VERONA -- Churchville’s Fire and Rescue Department answers 1,200 calls a year, but last weekend, the department’s response was not quick enough for a Churchville resident, Hansford Johnson.
Johnson said a Saturday fuel pump fire in his Churchville Avenue garage burned him and one other person, and destroyed a truck and all his possessions in the garage.
He said the first department to respond was Staunton. Johnson asked the Augusta County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night for more paid staff in Churchville so that the weekend fire coverage is constant.
Kristy McComas, the president of Churchville Fire and Rescue, said Johnson’s concerns are legitimate. She said the department is seeking more volunteers to complement the paid staff that works at the department Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“I don’t think we are ready for 24-7 career staff,” McComas said. She said more volunteers are needed.
The concerns of Johnson sparked comment from South River District Supervisor David Beyeler. He said the response issues at Churchville sound like those that were a problem at the Preston L. Yancey Volunteer Fire Company in Fishersville a couple of years ago. The department is now under the county’s control.
“We don’t need another Fishersville,” Beyeler said. Beyeler was concerned about the number of volunteer firefighters responding in Churchville.
Pastures District Supervisor Tracy Pyles said Churchville has a multi-layered and tiered system that has depended heavily on volunteers to help answer its calls.
He said Churchville has raised countless amounts of money to pay the department's utilities and construct its buildings.
And Pyles said Augusta County has already shown a renewed commitment to providing paid firefighters, including the addition of 21 in the county last year as a result of obtaining the federal SAFER grant. Pyles said it is not financially feasible to have 20 paid departments in Augusta County.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Moore thanked McComas for her appearance Wednesday, and said volunteers are vital for Augusta County.