McKinley Speaks to Group
Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) attended the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) to discuss issues in the Tyler County area.
One of the main topics of conversation was the affects on firefighters. Majority of the board consist of firefighters, oil and gas companies and those who work in health care.
Mitch Wilcox, representing the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department, brought up the issues of funding in the fire department has had in the last several years. One point that was brought to light concerned the department being turned down for 11 years in a row for a grant for breathing apparatuses.
“We are a small department, almost in Dodgeridge County but we are still in Tyler County. The only money we get is from the state and we run more calls than anyone in the county. We run about 90 percent of our calls are in this area here in the Middlebourne area,” Wilcox said. “87 to 88 percent of the calls, we are here on our own and we are not open for the grants and stuff that they are open for. It’s tough for us to continue to run.”
McKinley stated that what he has done in his offices, he suggested that the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department should assign someone to work on the grants and try to find money. McKinley went on to say that it has helped in the past to provide a letter of support for this grant or organization.
“Quit frankly what the problem is, we are trying to set something up so that the bigger cities, the bigger communities don’t suck up all the money and right now they are doing a pretty good job of it,” McKinley said. “I am trying to find a way to drive a wedge that separates the funding levels to communities with less than 5,000 people in it gets preferential treatment. It’s hard to get traction with that because we are outnumbered. The bigger cities control, you have already seen the numbers, they can control that.”
Donnie Lindsey from Jay Bee Oil and Gas, who also serves as a career firefighter in Bridgeport questioned training and staffing.
“In addition working in the oil and gas industry, I am a career firefirghter for the city of Bridgeport and we depend on, because we can’t staff, even the city of Bridgeport is growing as fast as it is, we don’t have enough staffing to do what we are going there and we do depend on the surrounding agencies to give us mutual aid. I know what these guys are going through, I get the chance to work with them briefly out in the field and if there is anyway that can be adjusted and still have coverage,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey went on to say that they often can’t follow the two in and two out rule because of the lack of people. He also says that if something was to happen because they are not following this, his family could lose his benefits if something happened to him.
McKinley stated that he was worked with the NFPA and they have had successful dialogue with them, but he has yet to convince them that steps need to be taken in the effort to help West Virginia Fire Departments who are struggling with issues like staffing.