Firefighters Association approve second reading of by-laws | News

Representatives of all six volunteer fire departments met for the Lewis County Firefighters Association meeting and approved the second reading of the organization’s constitution and bylaws. The first reading was approved at the March meeting.

The changes made and approved were that each department will pay $100 annually to the organization and that, upon individual requests, one liaison representative of the association may be appointed to the Lewis County Office of Emergency Management during an emergency or natural disaster.

A spelling correction and the addition of the Pledge of Allegiance and introduction of guests were also approved.

Jim Gum, director of LC OEM and E-911, said the landing zone list was sent to all VFD chiefs for review. He requested new descriptions, photos and X-Y coordinates for each zone within each department’s first-due area. Gum said OEM personnel will then add physical addresses and forward the list to Med Com for updating.

Steve Byers Jr., Jackson’s Mill VFD chief and representative on the state Fire Commission, reported on several bills that were passed by the Legislature or are awaiting Gov. Jim Justice’s signature.

Senate Bill 338 references awards for grants, with the new grant application period opening July 15 and closing September 15. Byers said between $1.3 and $1.4 million could be awarded throughout the state, and officials are trying to get combination departments included, as two were denied awards in the past, one being Weston Volunteer Fire Department.

Senate Bill 577, awaiting Justice’s signature, deals with VFDs responding to medical calls with EMS. In the fall of 2020, firefighters were limited to what they were able to do medically, even with proper training, when responding to a call. But SB 577, if signed, would allow firefighters to continue to assist on medical calls, with EMS personnel in charge when responding.

House Bill 2621 has been signed into law,and will go into effect June 22. It references Fire Officer II training and Firefighter I training. Chiefs who are not grandfathered in under the new law will have to submit proof of certification to the state Fire Marshal’s Office for approval before continuing with duties and responsibilities. Reviews are performed every five years.

A segment on the state Fire Marshal’s Office and the state Fire Commission’s duties and responsibilities has been added to Firefighter I training, and officers must be trained prior to taking a particular office, if promoted. It is also recommended that all officers receive chief training and certification, which could open up opportunities in other areas if they so desire, Byers said.

House Bill 3107 was passed April 5 and will take effect 90 days from that date. It deals with workers’ compensation paying benefits if it’s proven that a firefighter has PTSD. Byers said no funding mechanism was built into the bill, so insurance providers will be able to develop their own fee schedules and policies relating to the benefits.

Byers said it could be costly, and some departments might not be able to afford it, adding that anything documented prior to the effective date does not count towards this.

House Bill 2953 addresses the fire fee, and state that a county fire board can allocate a portion of that fee for paid staff, if so desired, but is not a requirement, with what is left disbursed to the departments in that county. The bill would also allow a fire board to request of its county commission an increase in fire fees, which would then have the issue placed on the ballot in the next election for voters to decide.

Gary Hall of Walkersville Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the state fire chiefs association, said a secretary/treasurer position needs to be filled, which will occur at the July meeting, along with the regular election of officers. He will temporarily fill in until that time.

The WV Firefighters Association Convention is scheduled to take place in Lewis County, beginning August 18 and ending August 21. It will be held at Stonewall Resort. Weston Fire Chief said $12,000 needs to be raised to cover the cost of the event, which was last held here in 2011.

The next meeting of the LC Firefighters Association is scheduled for May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Walkersville Volunteer Fire Department.

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