Public safety coordinator hired to help improve Pittsylvania County fire, rescue service

Virginia native Christopher Slemp will start Nov. 16

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – Currently, there is not a set of county-wide standard operating guidelines all fire departments follow when responding to calls.

That's one thing Pittsylvania County Fire and Rescue Association president and Blairs Fire Chief Dean Fowler hopes the new coordinator can help implement.

He's also looking forward to the coordinator helping with funding for the departments and establishing ongoing training and incentive programs to attract and retain volunteers.

 "The actual incentive program and a good training program is key to advancing this level of service in Pittsylvania County," Fowler said.

Virginia native Christopher Slemp will be the coordinator after a 2015 study of the county's fire and rescue agencies determined that a coordinator was needed.

Slemp holds multiple college degrees, has worked for fire departments in Virginia and South Carolina, and has numerous state and national certifications.

10 News was unable to reach him today for a comment.

"I hope the fire and rescue association will embrace this individual and understand that it's a give and take between both entities," Fowler said.

Ringgold Fire Chief Mike Neal echoed Fowler, saying everyone has to be involved in order for the fire and rescue agencies to improve.

"The people out here doing it for free, they've got to be involved in it and take ownership," Neal said.

Slemp will report to county public safety director Jim Davis.

Davis said Slemp is a welcome addition to the county.

"The board of supervisors wants this person on board, to come in and take the study, review it, and make a report to them as to what should be the next steps," Davis said.

Earlier this month, Pittsylvania County supervisors had planned to hold a public hearing for a draft ordinance that, according to Pittsylvania County administrator David Smitherman, is required in order for the county to implement the recommendations outlined in the 2015 study.

The fire and rescue associations, however, felt the county did not involve them in the creation of the ordinance to the extent that they should have been involved.

Consequently, supervisors tabled the issue to a yet-to-be-determined date after the first of the year.

"What we are going to do in the interim," Smitherman said, "is take that document to every agency and department, board of directors, and discuss with each of those on a one-on-one basis what's contained, what it means and why it's necessary moving forward."

He said that was not done prior to scheduling the public hearing earlier this month.

"We had two year's worth of conversations from the chiefs themselves where every single one of them sat down with our consultant and articulated the recommendations contained in the study. So, we felt we had considerable input prior to (the public hearing)," Smitherman said.

Slemp's first day will be Nov. 16.

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