Cotton Valley Fire Station reopens
Published: August 18, 2012
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ST. CROIX - Cotton Valley Fire Station reopened Friday morning, after the V.I. Fire Service was forced to shut it down Thursday because of a manpower shortage.
In a prepared statement released by Government House on Thursday afternoon, Assistant Fire Service Director Darryl George said that management was forced to make the decision and close the station.
Friday morning, George said the situation is not one that is chronic, but the circumstances that cause the shut-down resulted from a situation when sick leave and other leave overlapped, resulting in insufficient manpower to run the station.
The Fire Service continuously has been losing firefighters to retirement and resignation during the years, and a minimum amount of firefighters have been working on each shift, but it never has gotten to the point it did Thursday, he said.
"We have lost more than 50 firefighters since 2007," George said. "None have been as a result of layoffs or budgetary cuts, and we do plan to get our numbers back up."
An oversight occurred when leave was granted at the Cotton Valley station, and an unexpected illness with two of the officers resulted in the situation that called for the station, he said.
During the time that the Cotton Valley Station was closed, units from the Richmond Fire Station were on hand to respond in the event of any calls for assistance in the area usually covered by the Cotton Valley Fire Department, according to George.
Available personnel scouted the Cotton Valley jurisdiction to maintain a presence in the area and increase the ability for quick response in the area in the event of a fire emergency while the station was unmanned, George said.
He dispelled rumors about any plans to permanently close the fire station.
"We realize how important that station is," he said. "It is strategically located on the east end, and we are certainly not in the process to close any of our stations."
Cotton Valley Fire Station is primarily responsible for covering any fire emergency on the eastern end of the island and is one of the smaller firehouses in the district, with four firefighters typically on duty. The island's only casino, a number of restaurants, hotels, homes and a wide brush area exists in the Cotton Valley zone.
George said Friday that the Fire Service has plans to increase its staff to help fill the void that may exist from time to time. The Fire Service is working to implement emergency medical services, hazardous material-handling and search and rescue into its training, he said.
"The Fire Service is growing, and as we move to the next level, we do expect that there will be some pain with the growth," George said.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.