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W.Va. suspends emergency services license of fire company

It will remain in effect until further action is taken following probe of Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department

August 18, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — The state has suspended the emergency services license of a Blue Ridge Mountain fire company, an action that a local fire official said will delay ambulance service for residents in eastern Jefferson County near the Virginia border.

Effective Wednesday, the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services suspended the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department's license to provide emergency medical services, according to a news release from the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency.

The suspension will remain in effect until further action is taken following an investigation by the state emergency services office, the release said.

The release directed further questions about the suspension to Drema Mace, director of the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Service. However, Mace could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

A woman who answered the phone Thursday at the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency said no one there would be making any further comment beyond what was stated in the news release.

Officials at Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department also could not be reached for comment.

Ed Smith, who is on the board of directors for the Independent Fire Company in Ranson, W.Va., said he could not comment on what had caused the suspension.

"Anything I have would be rumor," Smith said.

Due to the license suspension, the Independent Fire Co. and Friendship Fire Co. in Harpers Ferry are picking up ambulance calls in the Blue Ridge Mountain area, Smith said.

"We're all hoping this will be short-lived," Smith said Thursday afternoon.

With the Independent and Friendship companies handling the calls on the mountain, residents there will be facing a seven- to 10-minute delay for an ambulance, according to Smith.

Smith said the delay could be even longer when the Independent Fire Co. is handling two calls at once.

In such cases, Friendship will have to respond to the southern end of the mountain — the section that Independent Fire Co. will be handling while the license suspension is in place — resulting in more delays, said Ron Fletcher, president of the of the Jefferson County Fire and Rescue Association, which represents the interests of fire departments countywide.

"It's going to put a tremendous burden on both Independent and Harpers Ferry (Friendship) to pick up the additional calls," Smith said.

While delays are likely, Fletcher emphasized that there will be no situations where Blue Ridge Mountain residents will be denied ambulance service.

Adjustments have been made to ensure ambulance service will be provided, the release said.

The Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Department has a main station on Keyes Gap Road on Blue Ridge Mountain and a substation on Mission Road on the mountain, Fletcher said.

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