Rescuing Fire Services

Rescuing Fire Services

Residents to vote on buying land for fire stations.

Western Loudoun public safety facilities could get the initial funds they need when voters go to the polls Nov. 7. Residents will be asked to vote on whether the county should issue a bond to purchase land for two new fire and rescue stations and a western Loudoun Sheriff substation.

The bond would be for a maximum of $3,450,000 and is expected to cover all or part of the land for all three facilities.

AS THE COUNTY'S population continues to increase and people move further west, the need for more advanced public safety facilities in the western half of the county continues to grow, Howard Dawley, deputy chief for Planning and Administration, said.

"You have to consider the greater region," he said. "A lot of the fire calls are multiple station calls."

The changes in the county's population causes changes in the equipment needed at each facility as well. With new equipment, Dawley said, comes the need for more space.

"You need the man power, tools and water," he said.

THE ALDIE and Neersville stations will be replacing existing stations, both of which were built decades ago, creating a size issue for a modern-day combined volunteer and career fire and rescue system.

"When these houses were developed, the guys wouldn't sleep there," Dawley said. "They would come in from the field when a call went out."

Nowadays fire and rescue personnel will stay at the fire house for several days at a time. The addition of women to the fire and rescue system also makes the expansion of the living quarters necessary.

"With women you have to have separate bunks, showers and bathroom facilities," Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg), chair of the board's public safety committee, said. "Women didn't use to be a part of the system, but now you have women doing a great job and getting involved and you have to accommodate that."

Dawley said it is often more expensive per square foot to try and expand a station than to build a new one from scratch.

"Often with the land these [older] facilities are on, the land is not sufficient to expand," he said.

WHILE NO SPECIFIC locations have been pinpointed for the new stations, the existing Aldie station has an issue that makes a new location important, Clem said. It sits in a floodplain.

"When it rains hard that water is up in the building," he said. "They are in desperate need of a new station."

Dawley said that during extremely heavy rains members of the Aldie fire station must sometimes evacuate, making it difficult for them to serve residents and their community.

"People are supposed to be able to go to a fire station during heavy rains if there is flooding," he said. "Not come and find us squeegeeing the floors."

As for the Neersville location, Dawley said they are looking for a location further south on Route 671.

"The goal is to strategically place the station in a location that better serves all the residents around it," he said.

To finalize the possible locations Dawley said the fire and rescue department has been working with members of both the Aldie and Neersville stations.

FOR THE WESTERN Sheriff substation, the Sheriff's Office is envisioning something similar to the new substation in Cascades, an approximately 18,000-square-foot stand-alone facility, spokesperson Kraig Troxell said.

"The ultimate goal is to keep the deputies who work in those sectors in those sectors," he said.

The substation would have a complementary records department so deputies could look up accident reports, do background or criminal checks and fingerprinting without having to go in Leesburg. Eventually, Troxell said, the Sheriff's Office would like for people who have warrants out on them to be able to turn themselves in at the substations. The Sheriff's Office would also like for the facilities to have video conferencing so suspects can appear before a magistrate via video.

"There would be holding cells," Troxell said, "but only for the short term. They would only be for those people awaiting transfer to the main jail."

The western substation, for which there is no specific location, would also be outfitted with an intoxilyzer, for testing suspects' blood alcohol content.

"Having to transport them far distances could effect their blood alcohol level," Troxell said. "And this way the deputy would not have to be out of their sector as long."