By Debbie Adams
In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Roanoke County on April 9, the county will assume responsibility for providing all fire, emergency medical and related services in the Town of Vinton. As of July 1, 2019, the employees of the Vinton Fire and EMS Department will be unified into the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Department and will become employees of Roanoke County.
Vinton Town Council held a reception prior to their council meeting on June 4 for the 10 Fire and EMS employees who will become Roanoke County employees: Deputy Chief Chris Linkous (24 years with the Town of Vinton), Captain Chad Helms (15 years), Fire Lieutenant Larry Whiting (12 years), EMS Lieutenant David Rodgers (eight years), Firefighter/EMT Marrion Burden (four years), Firefighter/Paramedic Chad Dailey (four years), Firefighter/Paramedic Kelly Stoots (three years), Firefighter/Paramedic Corey Gee (17 years), Firefighter/Medic William Crumpacker (11 years), and Firefighter/Paramedic Wayne King (three years).
During the council meeting the firefighters were recognized for their years of dedication to the citizens of Vinton and East Roanoke County with a proclamation thanking them for protecting lives and conserving property through the provision of professional fire, rescue, and emergency medical services.
The proclamation shared the history of the Vinton Fire and EMS Department in information gathered by Lt. Rodgers:
“In the fall of 1984, a career firefighter was hired as a driver/operator for the Vinton Fire Department, following which in the winter of 1991, staff grew to a captain, lieutenant, medic/FF and firefighter. In the fall of 1994 an EMS Lieutenant and two paramedics were hired for the Vinton First Aid Crew and in the spring of 2003 the two departments merged into one creating what is known today as the Vinton Fire and EMS Department.”
“In the present day, the Vinton Fire and EMS Department has grown to 10 highly-trained and experienced dual-role firefighters and emergency medical providers that serve the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, responding to hundreds of emergency calls annually, caring for thousands of patients over time, and protecting the lives, health, and property of the entire community.”
The Proclamation went on to explain that “Vinton Fire and EMS is a small, but elite department staffed by 80 percent Advanced Life Support Providers with 70 percent trained to the very highest level of pre-hospital emergency medicine, 100 percent with the highest available firefighter training, along with diverse skills in technical rescue, vehicle extrication, Haz Mat, and other highly specialized expertise—everyone having on average 15 years of 911 emergency experience and having spent thousands of hours taking classes, studying, and honing their craft in a variety of settings. This combination of skills, knowledge, and experience have made this department ready, willing, and able to address the needs of the citizens of Vinton and East Roanoke County.”
“Vinton Fire and EMS also has provided the community with numerous intangible contributions, such as visiting schools, assisting the elderly or infirm with non-emergency needs, hosting events and providing fire or medical training for Town staff or members of the community, giving tours to parents and teachers with their children, and providing the essential sense of security a thriving community requires.”
The Vinton Fire and EMS staff recognized the assistance and tireless efforts of Emergency Physician Matt Harless, who served as the Operational Medical Director and provided oversight, consultation, education, advice, and other numerous ways “to make this department what it is today.”
Chief Linkous thanked council for their support over the years and Roanoke County “for taking us on,” but mainly he thanked his fellow firefighters for “making this department great. You have made my life easy. You made me look good.”
Linkous said that he has been stopped by citizens countless times complimenting the Fire and EMS Department for their dedicated service.
Mayor Brad Grose thanked the firefighters for “what you have done for the community over the years keeping our community safe.”
The town and county have emphasized that Fire and EMS services in Vinton and East County will remain the same in the new arrangement. The employees will be recognized by Roanoke County with a badge and pinning ceremony in the near future. Chief Linkous will be the only employee no longer located in Vinton. He will become a Battalion Chief and work from the Roanoke County Fire and EMS administrative offices on Cove Road.
Human Resources Director Donna Collins was presented with a proclamation from council declaring June as National Safety Month by the National Safety Council (NSC) for the second year.
The NSC is a non-profit organization, established in 1913, with the mission of eliminating preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road, through leadership, research, education, and advocacy. They engage businesses, government agencies, elected officials, and the public to help prevent the fourth leading cause of death in the United States—preventable injuries. Studies show that three people in the United States are killed every ten minutes in preventable incidents.
The Town of Vinton has taken its own steps in the past two years to improve safety in its workforce and in the community at large with the establishment in 2017 of the Town Employee Safety Committee. The group has received awards from the Virginia Municipal League for their efforts, including one presented on June 4 by Safety Consultant Edward Shelton from the VML Insurance Program.
Shelton presented the town an award for “Implementing a Sustainable Risk Management Program and Embracing the Concept of Risk Sharing,” which makes sure “employees go home to their families at the end of their shifts.”
Current members of the town’s safety committee were recognized including Collins, Public Works Assistant Director Bo Herndon, Vinton Events and Operations Manager Chasity Barbour, Vinton Police Deputy Chief Fabricio Drumond, Police Department Records Manager Mandie Ramirez, and Principal Planner Nathan McClung.
Since the committee was established, all town employees have become CPR/First Aid Certified, and completed Driver Safety Training and Fire Extinguisher Training, among many other programs. Town staff have developed and implemented a behavior-based safety culture program which has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in injuries and accidents among town employees—and a 30 percent reduction in claims.
Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Justin Davison presented a report to council on the activities of the VACC. The Chamber has 270+ members, 26 annual sponsorships, and 10 event sponsorships.They have officiated at eight ribbon-cuttings just since January 2019.
Chamber Executive Director Angie Chewning hosts a bi-weekly “Chamber Chatter” program on Fox 910 Radio showcasing events, businesses, and organizations in the town. She appears on broadcasts such as “Living Local” on WFXR to promote upcoming events and has served as a liaison with the Gauntlet Business Program and Competition.
The Chamber sponsors a growing Lunch and Learn program for its membership featuring local business leaders and topics. Davison reported on a successful Grapes and Grains Festival on May 18 and the opening of the Mingle at the Market Concert series beginning on June 8.
The VACC is in the process of moving into new quarters at the Charles Hill Community Center on the Vinton War Memorial complex.
Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters was re-appointed to the Greater Roanoke Transit Company for another one-year term. Town Manager Barry Thompson was re-appointed to the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission for a new three-year term. Rob Lyon and Bud LaRoche were re-appointed to new three-year terms on the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission.
Thompson informed council that in light of the shootings in Virginia Beach, town staff, while grieving with their colleagues there, has been discussing their own vulnerabilities and will be considering proposals for improved security which they will present to council.