BOTETOURT COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Botetourt County took the final step toward integrating the Fincastle Rescue Squad and Fire Department into one agency Tuesday.
The two departments began the merger back in June after the Rescue Squad reported it didn't have enough volunteers to meet the calls coming in.
The merger was the first big task for Interim Fire Chief Tommy Fuqua after taking over for the late Chief Jeff Beckner, and he says surprisingly, through the merger, the department is actually able to put more qualified people in the position of operating ambulances, so if anything service levels could increase, but he says over the past few months, getting to this point has been very time consuming.
With a quick, unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors gave the Fincastle Fire Department the town's sole emergency rescue responsibility Tuesday.
It was the last step in what Fuqua calls a necessary merger.
"The rescue squad had dwindling numbers of people to provide the services. It was a decision made by their group to approach the fire department and see if they may want to be allow them to come over and be part of the fire department," said Fuqua.
Fuqua says he's been working with Deputy Chief Jason Ferguson since June to make the new department a reality.
"It's required a lot of work and a lot of time and just in coordinating the movement of equipment, the transition of equipment, things of that nature and the people," said Fuqua.
At this point, Fuqua says the old rescue squad building is no longer in use.
Now, the department is working on getting people certified to use the new equipment.
"We're working now with the firefighter EMT's to get them qualified to drive, and drive the ambulances, so in essence we're increasing the number instead of decreasing the number of rescue personnel," said Fuqua.
Fuqua says that increase will help maintain or even increase the level of service people living in Fincastle are used to.
"They will not see any decrease in services or anything like that. It's the same people that have been providing the service, along with some additional people, so if anything it will increase the service," said Fuqua.
Now that the merger is official, Fuqua says he plans to turn his attention to the other job he was hired for: helping select the next permanent fire chief for Botetourt County, to fill the spot left by former Chief Jeff Beckner, who died this past June.
"We're seeking applications for the position, they'll close the first part of September. We'll do interviews and anticipate having a new chief on-board by the first of October," said Fuqua.
Fuqua says there are several current members of the Botetourt Fire Department currently being considered for that position.
He also says he's confident the merger in Fincastle will remain a success, because he saw the same system work in Roanoke County, where he retired from in 2012.
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