Lynchburg Fire Organization Claims Fire Dept. Is Understaffed By Nearly 70 Firefighters

LYNCHBURG, VA — The Lynchburg FIREPAC and Lynchburg Fire Fighters Association has responded to the discussion that the City of Lynchburg is anticipating a $6.45 million dollar revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The council debated on how to make up the budget deficit at their meeting Tuesday, April 28.

The Lynchburg Fire Department is hoping to use budget money to give their firefighters and civilian employees a boost and add new positions, plus hire more people.

Most of the money to recover the Lynchburg economy will come from the loss of the three percent general wage increase expected for this year, according to city council. That will potentially help make up about $2 million.

The rest will come from about $1 million from the CARE act, about $950,000 from delaying projects and $700,000 from a reduced transfer to Lynchburg City Schools.

If the economy doesn’t improve by the time all businesses are reopened, the city says they will continue to extend the hiring and spending freezes, reduce the money going into the capitol improvement plan and even consider more furloughs.

The Lynchburg Fire organizations said they support the majority of the budget revised by City Manager Bonnie Svrcek.

The group claims they understand the need to delay market-rate salary adjustments and the elimination of the three percent general wage increase for city personnel.

“We can accept this as a temporary solution to stabilize the financial impact COVID-19 has had on our community, but we urge City Council to adopt a resolution barring the furlough of operational employees deemed essential by the city manager herself (classified as M1) in a memorandum (3/19/2020) at any point during FY2021,” the Lynchburg Fire Fighters Association wrote.

They said the new resolution banning the furlough of essential employees would ensure Lynchburg’s “citizens, guests, businesses and institutions can continue to rely on stable service delivery from the departments that secure, protect and maintain the city and its infrastructure, and also ensure they have staffing available to answer the call when they dial 911.”

The Lynchburg Fire Fighters Association claims the Lynchburg Fire Department is understaffed by at least 69 firefighters.

Lynchburg Fire Chief Greg Wormser told City Council on March 17 that the system is over taxed. In the video, he starts speaking about 35 minutes in.

Chief Wormser said they put an engine out of service 331 times to cover calls when they had no medic units available.

He also told city council that they needed 12 more firefighters and additional nine firefighters to place a 6th 24-hour medic unit in service.

Currently, Fire Stations 2 (Grace St.), 5 (Boonsboro Rd.), and 8 (Old Graves Mill Rd.) do not have 24-hour ambulances permanently staffed, according to Chief Wormser.

The Lynchburg Fire Fighters Association is urging City Council to fund an additional ambulance for the facility on Timberlake Road.

“Safety is the keystone of a community, and the public wants to know they can rely on a highly trained and experienced firefighter or paramedic to show up when they dial 911, and they want it to happen fast. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the notes dispatchers enter about the calls while we are responding, or even calls in holding when we don’t have a unit available to respond, that say the caller is repeatedly asking ‘why is it taking so long for someone to show up,’” said Martin Misjuns, Director of the Lynchburg FIREPAC and Vice President with IAFF Local 1146.

Chief Wormser said he has requested $87,000 for fiscal year 2021 to provide paramedic and intermediate ALS providers a per diem or stipend that increases their pay by $3,000. He said the City Manager did approve that request.

From WSET.com