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Paid firefighters help improve emergency response in Bedington, W.Va.

April 28, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council and the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department have agreed to keep a combined paid and volunteer firefighter system in place following a six-month trial period.

Robert W. “Robbie” Robinson, president of the fire department, said Friday that the addition of two full-time county-paid firefighters to help respond to weekday calls dispatched to Bedington has been “fantastic.”

A similar trial period with two paid firefighters assigned to the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Co. is set to expire next month, but Chief Rick Petry said he expects the fire company will vote to continue the arrangement.

Petry said the paid firefighters assigned to South Berkeley and Bedington have responded to calls from the respective fire company’s substations.

Petry credited the paid staff for taking good care of the fire company’s equipment and, like Robinson, said they have helped improve emergency response at a time when volunteers are increasingly unavailable.

Petry said he felt that the county’s previous arrangement of dispatching an engine with paid staff from Martinsburg was not as efficient as the current structure now in place.

Robinson said the paid staff has helped improve Bedington’s response times substantially, and the new arrangement has spurred additional efforts to improve the fire department’s service in northern Berkeley County.

Robinson said the fire department is talking with the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority about possibly sharing resources.

The Bedington Volunteer Fire Department voted in March to make the arrangement reached in October 2011 between Berkeley County Council, Berkeley County Fire Service Board, Berkeley County Fire & Rescue Association and the fire department permanent, according to an April 16 letter signed by Robinson and Bedington Fire Chief William R. Markley.

“It is the opinion of the BVFD that the combination Paid-Volunteer system is working very well at (our) substation,” the letter stated.

Robinson said Friday that county council President William L. “Bill” Stubblefield deserves a significant amount of credit for making the agreement possible. He also noted the work done by Berkeley County fire captain Edgar “Eddie” Gochenour in seeing that the agreement reached last fall was carried out.

Robinson said the arrangement was made possible after the parties involved started communicating and agreed to compromise and do what’s best for the community.

In the months since Bedington and South Berkeley worked out agreements to have paid staff stationed at their substations, the county decided to hire additional paid firefighting staff who are to be assigned to the Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department, which requested daytime support.

That decision left only the Back Creek Valley Fire Department and the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Department without paid staff in the county.

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