Wytheville Town Council dissolves volunteer fire department

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – The Wytheville Volunteer Fire Department has fought its last fire.

The Wytheville Town Council unanimously voted Tuesday to dissolve the volunteer department and use paid professional firefighters instead.

"Things have changed in the world. Volunteerism is not what it used to be," Wytheville Councilman Mark Bloomfield said.  "I know there's some hurt feelings and I'm really sorry about that, but we do think we need a long-term vision."

Wytheville's volunteer fire department only had 11 members and the state of Virginia mandates volunteer fire departments have at least 20 members. Kendra Eastwood, who served with Wytheville's VFD for more than twenty years, says the department could have made up the difference.

"We have dedicated our lives to this community and helping the citizens," Eastwood said. "The town is not even taking us into consideration with how much we have sacrificed for it. They could have worked on a recruitment plan to get more volunteers instead of disbanding us."

The town hired Fire Chief Marc Brade in November when they first started exploring the transition from volunteer to paid firefighters. Brade says the firehouse needs someone there at all hours of the day.

"We can't put the citizens of Wytheville at risk based on who can take a call and who can't," Brade said. "When we have paid staff, we will always have a specific amount of people responding to a call."

Brade added he has not ruled out bringing back a volunteer fire department to work alongside the paid professionals.

"A lot of volunteers have put a lot of time into this, and I respect that," Brade said. "Yes, city council made their decision to dissolve the volunteer side of the fire department, but we're going to bring this thing up out of the ground."

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