Franklin County officials announced today that the Blue Ridge Fire & EMS Academy, a joint venture between Franklin, Henry, and Patrick Counties, has been awarded a 2022 Achievement Award by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo). This is the third consecutive year that Franklin County has received a coveted VACo Achievement award. Of the 100 entries received only 29 were recognized with an award. VACo Executive Director Dean Lynch said, “This is an anniversary year, and I was encouraged to see that we had 100 submissions, our third-highest total ever. This tells me that the VACo Achievement Awards program’s mission of identifying and celebrating the innovative work by local government officials continues to resonate with our counties. We thank all who participated and recognize those who won an award.”
Like many jurisdictions nationally, Franklin, Henry, and Patrick Counties face numerous challenges in recruitment and retention of fire and emergency medical service (EMS) providers. This is a trend that is experienced in most, if not all, localities across Virginia and the nation. These jurisdictions operate combination fire/EMS systems, meaning that first responders are a combination of volunteer and career (Paid) providers. In the last few years, staff from all three counties have noticed a downtrend in the number of trained volunteer applicants to fill the needed career positions.
On November 1, 2021, the first 12 recruits began the first-ever Blue Ridge Fire & EMS Academy. The recruits went through a rigorous program consisting of didactic and practical courses and became certified in: Virginia Department of Fire Programs, Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) Class 1, EVOC Class 2, EVOC Class 3, Firefighter I, HAZ-MAT Operations, Basic Pump Operator, Rural Water Supply, Mayday Firefighter Down, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, Emergency Medical Technician-Basic, FEMA – National Incident Management System, IS 700, IS 800, IS 100, IS 200, Basic Life Support For the HealthCare Provider, and Mental Health First Aid for the First Responder. On May 2, 2022, the Blue Ridge Fire & EMS Academy began its second class.
Franklin County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ronnie Thompson noted that the Academy is “an innovative regional approach to the widespread problem of finding the qualified fire and EMS staff necessary to serve our communities. I am proud to see what we can do as a region to ensure the safety of our residents.”