Fire & Rescue

“Failure to address the important issues related to 
Winchester’s Fire & Rescue department lies solely with our Mayor/President and former City Manager who set the City Council’s agenda on a bi-weekly basis.”

 

The Winchester Fire and Rescue Department (WFRD) is a combined career and volunteer fire department. 
 
The City of Winchester does not own the four fire stations across the city - Friendship, Rouss, South End, and Shawnee.  The fire stations and much of the equipment used by them are owned by the individual, non-profit volunteer fire companies.
 
In general, the city provides the personnel to staff the stations on a 24/7 basis, while the volunteer fire departments own and maintain the equipment. When they are available, fire companies also provide volunteer personnel that works alongside the city's paid staff.
Much has been said over the past several months about the current state of Public Safety in Winchester, particularly regarding the Winchester Fire and Rescue Department.  Having been on the council since 2014, I believe we need to look at and understand the issues in three distinct parts. They are each unique and present separate challenges and opportunities.
1. Operational agreements between City Hall and Volunteer Fire Department's
2. Effective leadership and communication by all parties - City Staff, Volunteer Fire Departments and City Council. This includes bringing back the Public Safety Committee
3. Pay, benefits, scheduling and related issues for city-paid firefighters.
With the recent completion of the long-awaited Fire Study, we can now begin the process of reviewing and implementing the necessary changes to build a stronger department. With the hiring of a new City Manager and Fire Chief taking place over the next few months, it should give us an opportunity to
re-calibrate and focus on building a brighter future.
 
Certain changes noted in the Fire Study can be and should be implemented immediately, while other more complex issues will take longer to resolve and implement.
While there is still work to do, it should be noted that City Hall has supported both our volunteer fire organizations and paid firefighters in many ways over the past several years, and we will continue to do so as we work together to build a stronger, more stable organization for the citizens of Winchester.
Overall spending on Fire & Rescue has increased by 57.7% since 2011-12
2011-12 - $4.5 Million
2012-13 - $4.8 Million
2013-14 - $5.1 Million
2014-15 - $5.4 Million
2016-17 - $5.7 Million
2017-18 - $6.0 Million
2018-19 - $7.2 Million
2019-20 - $7.1 Million
Learn more at OpenGov
Other ways we have continued to support our local fire service are as follows;

1.

The City purchased the first city-owned ladder truck at a cost of over $1,000,000 in FY19-20 which allowed Rouss Fire Company to dedicate those funds to other parts of their operation.

2.

The City increased funding to volunteer companies by providing funding for fuel beginning in FY16. $72,000 is budgeted for this expense FY20.

3.

The City fully-implemented the recommendations of a comprehensive compensation study, resulting in a $176,373 budgeted increase in WFRD personnel salaries in FY19.

4.

The City established a competitive work/pay schedule consisting of a 21-day/144-hour regular work cycle in FY12 (Frederick County currently has a 28-day/212-hour regular work cycle).

5.

The City commissioned and built a joint burn building training facility with Frederick County involving a direct expense of $270,000 to the City, plus new annually-recurring maintenance expenses that will be incurred to operate the facility.

 

6.

The City began an in-house paramedic training program in FY19, for which the City paid for the cost of training as well as the salaries of participating WFRD personnel throughout the program.

7.

The City established a Career Development Program (CDP) in 2017-2018 to improve opportunities for WFRD personnel to enhance skill sets and career opportunities.

8.

Approved a conditional use permit in 2016 to allow Friendship Fire Company to build a cell phone tower on top of their building at 627 N. Pleasant Valley Road.
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9.

In 2016 the City completed the 800 Mhz public safety radio communications project after more than a decade of planning, budgeting, and installation. The system provides both internal and external interoperability between agencies/departments and establishes dependable radio communications for emergency and non-emergency operations, vastly improving safety across all departments

10.

At the September 8, 2020 meeting (Item 11.1) City Council established the Public Safety Committee along with the Finance Committee
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11. 

At the September 8, 2020 Work Session (Item 3.3) meeting City Council repealed many of the CEMS policies that were in place as they relate to firefighter pay and benefits.
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Paid  for and authorized by Elect Corey Sullivan for City Council