Ladder Trucks Return to Service in Virginia County

Two Roanoke County Fire & Rescue ladder trucks that were taken out of service because of a staffing shortage are back in use after the county hired 12 recruits in early May.

The ladder trucks – based at the Cave Spring and Hollins stations – have been parked since March. Without a full roster of employees, many stations have been forced to choose which vehicles, such as a fire truck or ambulance, would not be able to operate. Placing the ladder trucks out of service allowed officials to avoid that daily dilemma until additional staff members could be hired, Chief Steve Simon said.

“This happens about the same time every year, and I didn’t want to make a decision at 5 or 5:30 in the morning on what we were going to have to lose that day,” he said.

For residents, taking the ladder trucks out of service posed the smallest amount of disruption, Simon said. Ladder trucks aren’t often used in the county, and the two stationed at the Vinton and Fort Lewis stations could still respond to fires in areas served by the Cave Spring and Hollins stations. Nearby Roanoke and Salem crews also offer mutual aid services.

With the addition of 12 new recruits, the department is back to full staffing, Simon said. The department hired 11 men and one woman from the 19th Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Academy, which graduated May 12. Those recruits started their first shifts over the course of the past week, he said.

Though the department is now fully staffed, Simon said retirements, military duty and other variables may cause it to fall below ideal staffing levels again. He hopes the department will be able to hire four to six additional people when a new class of recruits starts at the regional academy in August.

“These will be not new positions, but over-hires,” Simon said.

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