Waynesboro splits fire department crews to protect staff during COVID-19

fire department

Photo by Chris Graham

You may have noticed a Waynesboro fire truck parked at the Residence Inn by Marriott on Windigrove Drive.

What you wouldn’t have naturally assumed is: has to do with COVID-19.

“Early in the pandemic, we made the operational decision to split our Fire Department’s operation in order to reduce the risk of a COVID outbreak that would impact an entire shift,” City Manager Mike Hamp said.

The fire department divides its staff into three 10-person shifts that are on duty for 24-hour periods.

You can imagine what a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing would do if an entire shift were to be put in quarantine for several days.

At the outset of the public health mandates, the city partnered with a local church for the split-staff operation.

As activity at the church resumed in the early summer, the city moved to a school facility.

When school resumed in the fall, the move was made to contract with Residence Inn.

The split staff has three members.

The cost to the city in housing-related expenses to date has been $32,000, most of that incurred since the move to the Residence Inn location, according to Hamp.

The good news: it’s working out as intended.

“The strategy has been effective in protecting the health of the staff and delivering service,” Hamp said.

And, hey, unintended extra benefit here, but for the time being, anyway, we have the fire substation in the busy Rosser Avenue-Lew Dewitt Boulevard-Interstate 64 corridor that we voted for back in 2007 and didn’t get because the City Council used a technicality to overturn the will of the people.

Sorry, not sorry, but, had to bring that up.

Story by Chris Graham 


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