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Duffield Fire & Rescue lays off night crews

Holly Viers • Mar 7, 2020 at 8:00 AM

GATE CITY — Four full-time and eight part-time workers lost their jobs last weekend in a first-ever layoff for Duffield Fire & Rescue.

Chief Roger Carter explained the move during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, noting that all those who were laid off were on night crews. Effective Monday, the squad will provide only daytime service Monday through Saturday, though Carter hopes to pick up some nighttime service with volunteers.

What caused the layoff?

Carter said payroll to provide 24/7 service is around $10,000 every two weeks. He explained that the squad could no longer afford that amount due to a couple of factors, one being that the squad doesn’t always receive payment for the calls it runs.

Another factor is the Duffield Regional Jail, which houses inmates from Scott, Wise and Lee counties and the city of Norton. Two years ago, the jail enacted a system whereby it does not pay for medical transports for inmates with pre-existing conditions.

Since Duffield Fire & Rescue is the responding agency for any medical calls at the jail, it pays those expenses for jail inmates from any of the localities, not just those from Scott County.

“Paying for Lee, Wise and the city of Norton, that’s been a bear for me since they started that,” Carter said. “We have to pull that money from somewhere, and if it comes out of the budget, then that shortens our fire and rescue operations. We’ve done pretty good; we’ve not asked for a whole lot over the years as far as keeping it going, and we’ve lived within our means, but we can’t keep eating it.”

Discussing solutions

Supervisor Jeremy Herron questioned whether a Wise County ambulance could be called to respond to calls involving a Wise County inmate, for example. Carter said that isn’t possible due to state law.

“By state law, you have to use the closest service from the event of an emergency,” Carter said, “and we’re across the bridge (from the jail).”

County Administrator Freda Starnes said the BOS sent a letter to the other localities in November 2018, asking them to pay the medical transport costs for their own inmates, but none of them responded.

At the time the letter was sent, Duffield Fire & Rescue had paid $9,000 for those calls, Starnes said. As of Wednesday, that amount had grown to $59,699.70, Carter said.

What’s next?

David Gilliam of the Scott County Life Saving Crew said that squad plans to hire two of the full-time employees who were laid off by Duffield Fire & Rescue.

BOS Chairman Danny Mann added that he plans to reach out to supervisors from the other localities to ask them once again to pay the medical transport costs for their own inmates.

“They should’ve responded to that letter Mrs. Starnes wrote; it was a year or so ago when she sent that,” Mann said. “I’m embarrassed for them that they did not respond to that.”

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