County Fire has more men, equipment

RANDY PATRICK

Sun Reporter

When Steve Asbury came out of retirement last September to become chief of the Clark County Fire Department, a couple of things he wanted to do was hire more paid firefighters and buy more equipment.

In the six months he’s been at the helm, he has done both, and Thursday he told members of the Fiscal Court he couldn’t be more pleased with their support for the department.

“We’ve upped our staffing, we’ve already upped our pay prior to my arrival … and we’ve upped our capabilities as far as our equipment is concerned,” the chief told the magistrates and judge-executive.

Those improvements, he said, have made a difference within the ranks.

“You see it in the  attitudes that have changed. Morale is up. Our guys are excited to come to work. They see it moving in a positive direction,” he said.

Asbury, who retired as a county firefighter but came back last year to succeed Ernie Barnes as chief, said at the time the department was understaffed. But the department has increased its personnel, first by hiring part-time, then full-time firefighters.

Hiring full-time employees had depleted the part-time ranks a little, Asbury said, but next month he plans to start hiring back some part-time firefighters.

He said they have increased the workforce from 21 to 24 firefighters and two staff.

“We currently have eight persons per shift, and by July, we will see 10,” he said.

Asbury said the department has submitted a request for a Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant for $1.4 million to add two firefighters per shift for a total of six.

“Hopefully we will receive that grant and it’ll get us right on course where we need to be,” he said.

He said that staffing would bring the department closer to meeting National Fire Protection Association guidelines.

As for equipment, county officials who came early for the Fiscal Court meeting Thursday got to see the department’s new pumper truck, which was on display outside the courthouse. And, he said, they should get a new tanker truck delivered by Tuesday.

Asbury told the Fiscal Court he had talked with County Judge-Executive Chris Pace about the possibility of a third fire station, possibly outside the city limits. Currently, CCFD has Station 1 on Mount Sterling Road and Station 2 off the Bypass at Fulton Road, which it shares with the Winchester Fire Department.

“We have several options that may be available. I can’t really say any more than that,” he said, but added that some of the property might be donated.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to put a county fire station in the county, not just in the city,” he said.

Magistrate Chris Davis said the Fire Department has shown considerable improvement and that Asbury was doing “a great job” as its leader.

Things were getting better “every month,” he said.

In his State of the County speech to the Winchester Rotary Club in January, improvements to the Fire Department were among the signs of progress Pace cited.

He said the county has “more full-time firemen than ever before, and they are being paid better than they ever were before.”