TEAYS VALLEY, WV (WOWK) – The Teays Valley Fire Department began their new reduced staffing hours on Sunday, meaning that the department is going from being fully staffed 24 hours a day to only 12 hours a day during prime response times.
Fire Chief John Smoot said the transition into these reduced hours has gone smooth so far, but long term, he and residents worry about what budget cuts will mean for response times to all kinds of emergencies, such as fires, gas leaks, car accidents, and more.
“Being in an older community where I now live, we depend on the fire department on emergencies. So, the budget cuts are going to be pretty hard on us,” resident Linda Kaufman said.
The new staffed hours are the direct result of budget cuts, which stemmed from what the fire department called the “failure of emergency services special levy election” last November.
“It has to be funded, and if it’s not funded, then we can only do what we can do. So, the funding is a critical component,” Smoot said.
Smoot said the department is concerned about response times, especially during nighttime. He said the department is hoping for extra support from both the community and from local government following recent changes.
“What we’re anxiously waiting on is the recent legislation that went through the WV legislature. Putnam county is going to be in line to get additional funding. We have no idea what that is, but we’re encouraged, and we’re excited about it,” Smoot said.
Many Teays Valley residents said they, too, are worried about slower response times.
“We can’t determine when there’s going to be a fire or when there’s going to be an emergency,” Kaufman said. “So, if we don’t have as many people working, certainly the response is going to be much slower.”
“A house can go up in minutes, especially a mobile home. If you don’t have somebody there to fight it, it’s gone,” resident Roger Coffee said.
The Teays Valley Fire Department responded to 4,200 calls last year, and they’re on track to reach around 4,000 calls for this year.