Federal grant funding will be used to hire 10 firefighters to help the county provide weekday, daytime staffing at the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department and the Pantops Public Safety Station while still staffing the Stony Point Volunteer Fire Company and the East Rivanna Volunteer Fire Company.
In mid-September, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced recipients of the Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, of which Albemarle and Charlottesville were recipients. Albemarle received $1.9 million from the allocation.
In the first proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 that was presented in February, Albemarle County Fire Rescue would have reallocated weekday, daytime fire-rescue staff from Stony Point and East Rivanna companies to the Crozet department and Pantops station to assist Crozet with a decrease in the number of volunteers and meet system-wide response time standards and call volume.
After outcry from the public, a new proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 — which was adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic — included $168,872 for the first year of matching funds with the potential for the grant to assist with the 10 positions. The budget, now approved, also includes about $1.9 million for a fire engine and two ambulances.
Chief Dan Eggleston said the grant included the approximately $740,000 in matching funds over three years that the county was going to pay.
“That certainly lessens the burden in terms of the amount of budgeted money that we had to come up with, so we’ll be able to reapply that matching fund to other unmet needs in the county,” he said.
In July, the county started cross staffing an ambulance during the day at Stony Point, Eggleston said, and in early September, ACFR started staffing a fire engine during the day in Crozet.
Cross-staffing is when staff at the station would be trained to use an ambulance or fire engine, depending on the call.
“That’s the first two initiatives of this larger plan,” he said. “It’ll take about 18 months to fully deploy. We’re in the process now of our second recruit school that’s going on, as well as the hiring process of further hiring career firefighters.”
The first recruit school for these positions was abbreviated, Eggleston said, and ACFR does not yet have enough staff hired to fully staff at Crozet and to continue its commitment to fully staff both Stony Point and Earlysville Volunteer Fire Company, so it is using dynamic staffing.
During dynamic staffing, a staff member would be relocated from one station to another depending on need, reducing the station to two staff members, where only an ambulance can be staffed. Sometimes a crew is pulled from the station, which results in delayed service.
“[Dynamic staffing is] going to be probably used during this period until we can graduate some additional firefighters and get them out in the field,” Eggleston said.
The first of the schools graduated in June 2020 and the second school is currently in progress with a class of 14 recruits. The third school is scheduled to begin in January 2021.