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Fire department dismay with changes

By Staff | Jun 17, 2011

The Shepherdstown Fire Department has proudly served the citizens of Shepherdstown and surrounding areas for well over 200 years. We have always had tremendous appreciation for the overwhelming support that we have received from our community. Because of that, we have always and will continue to put the safety of our community and its people at the forefront. We do this through excellence in emergency preparedness and response, diligent fire, rescue and emergency medical training, and through fire safety programs, outreach programs and public education training. We have state of the art equipment and resources, and a roster of some of the most experienced fire, rescue, and EMS personnel in the area, and we are quite proud of our community supported Live-In Program that assists in making personnel available for immediate response to emergencies.

Because we work very hard to maintain this high standard of excellence, and we do so in order to ensure the safety of the community, we feel that it is our duty and responsibility to inform and educate members of the public when issues may arise that have a direct negative, and possible deadly affect on the communities that we serve.

In order to adequately respond to and successfully mitigate a fire emergency such as a house fire, it is imperative to dispatch appropriate resources and to respond in the most timely fashion. In Jefferson County, four fire companies are initially dispatched on structure fires to ensure the safest outcome possible. We believe it is intuitive and common sense that the four closest, quickest fire companies be dispatched to these fires and we believe that it is likely the community’s expectation as well.

The Shepherdstown Fire Department learned last week that initial response assignments in a portion of the Bakerton Fire Department’s response district were changed to exclude a fire response from the Shepherdstown Fire Department. Through efforts by the Director of the Jefferson County 911 center, these changes have TEMPORARILY been reverted back to the previous response assignments that include response from the Shepherdstown Fire Department.

However, the members of the Shepherdstown Fire Department are dismayed to learn that there is a continued effort to have Shepherdstown removed from the initial fire dispatch to these areas for serious fires. We strongly believe that this could have an adverse affect on property loss from fire, or worse, contribute to serious injury or death.

Areas affected include but are not limited to portions of River Road, Molers Cross Roads, Engle Moler Road, Bakerton Road, the Uvilla area and other select areas near Bakerton. These areas were once the primary, or first due, response district of the Shepherdstown Fire Department. When these areas were redistricted to include the new Bakerton Fire Department, they became secondary response districts, meaning that the Shepherdstown Fire Department is now the second closest fire company to respond to fire incidents in these areas. If these changes were to again occur, three of the four fire companies dispatched to much of the Bakerton and surrounding area would be coming from a location considerably further away. In many of these instances, the Sharpsburg Fire Department from Maryland would have to respond through Shepherdstown while much closer resources would sit idle in the Shepherdstown fire house.

The Shepherdstown Fire Department has always and continues to support the Bakerton Fire Department and their service to Bakerton and surrounding areas. The Shepherdstown Fire Department also continues to need and request the support of the Bakerton Fire Department and will continue to have them dispatched to the areas of our primary response district in which they are the next closest. When and if called, the Shepherdstown Fire Department will respond to assist the Bakerton Fire Department with a dedicated, well trained, well resourced and well equipped force.