WEBER CITY — The Weber City Volunteer Fire Department is experiencing growing pains.
As the agency expands and responds to more calls, its fire station has proven inadequate in a number of ways.
Rather than upgrade the current station, which is too small and not up to present safety standards, Chief Bruce Cross believes a new facility is needed to help the department better serve its community.
“I’m looking 30 years ahead to make sure we are covering all bases for the future,” Cross said. “I don’t want to plan for today. I’m planning for tomorrow.”
Serving the community
Cross said the department is operated by 16 volunteers, 12 of whom are consistently active. It serves a population of 4,575 people and has a coverage area of 41 square miles. The department also provides mutual aid to three other fire departments in Virginia and four in Tennessee.
The department responded to 135 calls in 2017 and is on track to outpace that number this year. Since the beginning of 2018, it has responded to 112 calls, the majority of them in June and July.
A host of problems exist with the fire department’s current building, but perhaps the most glaring is its position. It’s located at the top of a hill, making travel in winter weather not only difficult, but dangerous.
“I’ve actually had to put us out of service because we can’t get off the hill,” Cross said. “Either one of the neighboring fire departments has to run the calls, or somebody’s got to come get this hill cleared off.”
The surrounding roads pose another problem, Cross said. The residential roads leading to and from the building are too narrow for a fire truck to pass through when other vehicles are present, and sharp turns and slopes make it difficult for fire truck drivers to see oncoming traffic.
Inside the building itself, space is a major concern. The station features a three-bay fire hall, with four trucks parked tightly inside. The remaining trucks, equipped with thousands of dollars worth of gear and equipment, must be parked outside.
Properly accommodating the volunteers is also an issue, Cross added. Male and female volunteers must share one bathroom and one shower, and the building doesn’t have kitchen facilities or a sufficient meeting area.
“To update this station right here (would be) very expensive, and it’s too small,” Cross said. “We have no smoke alarms, fire alarms, security alarms. We have nothing like that.”
Finding a solution
Cross said he, along with representatives from the town of Weber City, planned to request land for a new fire station at the Scott County Economic Development Authority’s meeting today.
The site Cross will propose is part of the Riverside development on U.S. 23. If the EDA agrees either to donate or sell some of the land to Cross, the proposal would then have to go before the Scott County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
If approval is granted, Cross hopes to build a two-story facility featuring six or seven side-by-side bays, an office and restrooms on the first floor and kitchen, laundry, training and storage areas on the second floor.
Under this arrangement, not only would the fire department have enough space to operate, but it would also be more aesthetically pleasing and have more consistent access to U.S. 23, Cross said.
“I want a very nice, presentable fire station,” Cross said. “I want it kid-friendly, because we do a lot of fire prevention at the schools. I want to be able to bring the kids to the station, and I want them to have hands-on (experience).”
How you can help
The department is now accepting donations for its new building fund. Checks can be mailed to 149 Roland St., Weber City, VA 24290, with “building fund” on the memo line. Donations can also be dropped off in person at that address.
For more information, call Cross at (423) 782-8389 or search for “Weber City Volunteer Fire Department” on Facebook.