Clarke County Administrator David Ash’s job responsibilities include the role of Clarke County Emergency Services Coordinator. The Clarke Daily News asked Mr. Ash to respond to the recent Shenandoah River Lane fire that destroyed a home in southeastern Clarke County. Below is Mr. Ash’s response to CDN’s questions:
CDN: Do you have an official title / role related to managing Clarke’s emergency response assets?
Administrator Ash: One of the duties assigned as County Administrator is that of Emergency Services Coordinator. These duties do not include management of individual Volunteer Fire Company assets or operational policies or procedures.
CDN: The Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department chief told CDN that his company and Blue Ridge are the only two departments in Clarke with no paid fire fighters. Is this correct?
Administrator Ash: No. Clarke County employs a limited number of Emergency Medical Services qualified staff to assist the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Companies in responding to requests for emergency medical care. These employees are qualified as firefighters, and also respond throughout the county to assist on incidents of many types, however, emergency medical care is the primary responsibility. These employees operate from the John H. Enders Fire Company utilizing that organization’s vehicles and supplies but respond throughout the County in accordance with dispatch policy agreed to by the Clarke County Fire and Rescue Association.
CDN: Is it time for Clarke County to look at appointing a County Fire Chief to oversee Clarke’s many fire companies?
Administrator Ash: Clarke County has four volunteer fire companies. The need for and benefits of a County Fire Chief would likely be determined after consulting with all of the Fire Companies and other interested parties not as a reaction to a single incident with questionable factual information. What authority would a County Fire Chief be assumed to have?
CDN: CDN understands that there is no mutual aid agreement between Warren County and Clarke County. Is this true, and if so, why isn’t there such an agreement in place?
Administrator Ash: Shenandoah Farms is directly funded by Warren County as well as Clarke County as the response area is located in both. Clarke County does not have a direct mutual aid agreement with Warren. Both Warren and Clarke participate in the State Wide mutual aid agreement. Shenandoah Farms may or may not have individual agreements with other companies.
CDN: The SFVFD fire chief told CDN that his company’s response rate to calls is 75%. Given such a response rate, are people living in the southeast part of Clarke County being adequately served?
Administrator Ash: Dispatch procedures are routinely adjusted to provide for dual and/or secondary dispatch should any department fail to respond in a reasonable time or have known equipment or staffing problems. Suggesting that there is no response to emergency assistance calls is simply not true and you should seek further comment from the Chief at Shenandoah Farms on this matter as I am sure that is not the message he intended to give.