In an effort to modernize the governing structure of Loudoun's Combined Fire and Rescue System, the Board of Supervisors approved a string of changes within the system and implemented a new chapter in the county code April 16.
The intent of the alterations is to “promote the public health, safety and welfare by establishing a framework for governance of the Combined Fire and Rescue System to include, but not be limited to: system-wide discipline, financial reporting and training and certification standards for operating members of all volunteer and career fire and/or emergency medical services (EMS) companies,” according to a staff report.
A key initiative connected to the changes is the creation of an assistant fire chief who will be primarily responsible for communicating and working with the volunteer branch of the system.
The board voted to authorize $255,000 of unallocated fund balance for the new assistant chief post, and a national search will be conducted for the hiring.
What was once a volunteer-dominated system, Loudoun's fire and rescue service has been increasingly reliant on career firefighters as the local population grows. The system operates 22 companies from 19 stations across the county.
The new ordinance also implements a seven-member executive committee for the fire and rescue system, with representation of both career and volunteer staff. The executive committee will serve as the highest legislative body of the system.
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) said the fire and rescue overhaul “will probably be one of the most important reforms by this Board of Supervisors.”
“Currently, the fire and rescue system is being governed under rules that were intended for a 1970s rural county,” Williams said on his public Facebook page. “These reforms will modernize the governance structure; providing more accountability, clear command authority and uniform standards. This new governance system should strengthen both the volunteer and career portions of our combined Fire and Rescue system.”
Williams said he hopes the volunteer element of the fire and rescue system continues to grow because of how instrumental volunteers are in keeping county investment relatively low.