Letter to Loudoun County Supervisors on November 7, 2019
Dear Chair Randall [also note that the same message was sent to Superviors Buona and Meyer),
Congratulations on your re-election! I am pleased to know that we have an advocate for first responders continuing to lead the Board. I look forward to working with you and county leadership to ensure that Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue remains the pre-eminent Combination Fire and Rescue Department in the country.
That said, I am deeply concerned about the future of volunteers within our combined system for a variety of reasons. The most pressing is an issue that will be considered tonight at the Board’s business meeting regarding Classification and Compensation. To be clear, I am strongly in favor of our career firefighters and EMS providers receiving competitive salaries to improve LCFR’s recruitment and retention, as well as to enable a greater percentage of career staff to live within Loudoun County. However, the scheduling changes that are currently associated with the proposed compensation increase pose a significant challenge to the volunteer contingent of the County’s combined Fire and Rescue System. Phase 2 of the Classification and Compensation study that was presented to the FGOEDC was language that indicated that LCFR management has proposed transitioning to a 48-hour workweek for career firefighters based on “traditional 24-hour shift”. While the intent of this proposal is said to be on career recruitment and retention, a shift to 24-hour shifts strongly suggests that volunteer stations with 7/12 career staff will see career staff in stations overlapping volunteer shifts.
My concerns around a shift to 24-hour career staffing are as follows:
24-hour career staffing in volunteer stations may significantly reduce volunteer recruitment and retention. If career staff are already there, volunteers may feel that they are being displaced and are effectively being told by the system that they are not needed.
This change has not been discussed with volunteer leadership within the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System to the best of my knowledge as a member of the System’s Administrative Operations Committee (AOC). The minutes of the FGOEDC meeting on October 8th were the first time I was made aware of the proposed change.
Such a significant change to the System with the potential to impact volunteer recruitment and retention NOT having been discussed within the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System (LC-CFRS) Ordinance governance structure (Chapter 258), as adopted by the Board of Supervisors, adds to the already growing perception among our volunteer members that LCFR staff is “trying to push volunteers out”.
A reduction or loss of the volunteer contingent of the Combined System may effectively eliminate emergency/surge staffing capabilities within the System by displacing highly trained volunteers who live and work in Loudoun County and instead relying only on daily career staffing and the availability of the 74% of firefighters who reside outside of the County (as far away as Sherburne, NY and Virginia Beach (https://loudounnow.com/2016/06/30/walking-through-fire-and-out-the-door-how-can-loudoun-keep-its-firefighters/) to respond in times of local, regional or national crisis.
Again, I fully support a competitive pay increase for LCFR career firefighters. However, the lack of communication between LCFR and Volunteer leadership in the Combination system regarding a potential staffing change within our own stations is disconcerting. Furthermore, such a change has the potential to diminish, if not altogether remove, the proud legacy and continued value that Loudoun’s Volunteer Fire and Rescue Departments provide to the citizens of Loudoun County.
Considering the lack of communication volunteer leadership has had regarding LCFR’s intent to move to 24-hour staffing, I humbly request that you inquire about the impact to both the Combination System and the volunteers from our communities who faithfully and freely serve our great County before the Classification and Compensation Study is voted on by the Board of Supervisors.
Yours in Service,
Firefighter / EMT – Sunday Crew
Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department
Meyer, Ron <Ron.Meyer@loudoun.gov>
Thu, Nov 7, 2019, 4:48 PM
to me, Judy, Andrew
They are deferring action on this section of the item. I agree with you.