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Chat with the Fire Chief Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Chat with the Fire Chief

Join Fire Chief Richie Bowers on Monday, Jan. 27, at 1:30 p.m., as he takes questions about the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the newly developed Safety In Our Community (SIOC) initiative, and also learn what firefighters are doing to help you “prevent the 911 call.”

Richard Bowers : Good afternoon. I'm honored to be here and look forward to the chat session with any members of the department and the residents of Fairfax County.

Anonymous User : How can volunteer firefighters best assist the career firefighters in the county? What things would you like to see changed with regard to the volunteers' role?

Richard Bowers : We will continue to have volunteers provide supplemental operational staffing on units and at special events and also provide administrative support at the local volunteer fire stations. Fairfax County volunteers need to continue to focus on providing supplemental staffing and administrative support roles in the county. The volunteers will need to continue their required training and continue to participate in other training opportunities locally and regionally.

Anonymous User : What can those of us in the department looking to advance a career in EMS/ALS look for, specific to promotional opportunities.

Richard Bowers : Promotional opportunities for firefighters, EMTs and paramedics exist today and will continue to exist as the department moves forward. Additionally, Firefighter/EMTs and Firefighter/Paramedics, currently and in the future, will have the operational opportunities to ride as minimum on ladder trucks, rescues, engines and transport units. Our service delivery model is now shifting to being able to provide ALS service from all frontline apparatus - fire, rescue and EMS units. Certification is key to being able to ride various apparatus. This service delivery adjustment will provide an equal opportunity for Firefighter/EMTs and Firefighter/Paramedics to gain the experience and certification on all our frontline apparatus.

A constituent : Why does Fairfax County Fire & Rescue send both a fire truck, AND an ambulance, to most 9-1-1 calls needing medical assistance (where the services of a paramedic or rescue squad member are being requested)?

Richard Bowers : As an emergency call comes in, the type of call is assessed and we will send the appropriate number of personnel that have the proper training, certification and equipment to mitigate the incident. At times, there are multiple units that need to respond to the specific incident depending on the type of emergency. In addition, as the incident evolves, additional units may be sent.

Scott : In what different ways do you see the volunteers contributing in the future? How do you see their evolving and are you looking to set up any kind of specialized training for them that there has not been available before or has been but is no longer available to the volunteer. ie TROT, Tower Qualified, HAZMAT. Thanks Scott

Richard Bowers : As Fire Chief, I support training opportunities for all our personnel and will work hard to ensure that those opportunities are available.

Robynabs : When will hiring begin for firefighter/emt? Any in the near future?

Richard Bowers : Firefighter/EMT is open every quarter and Firefighter/Paramedic is continuously open. The Firefighter/EMT will be open again in April 2014. Please check the website:

Anonymous User : How is Fairfax different than Montgomery County? What challenges are you facing on your first year on the job here in Fairfax?

Richard Bowers : Fairfax County is very similar in nature to Montgomery County in population, geography and incident response. There are some very densely populated areas of the county such as Tysons, Reston, Baileys and McLean and conversely there are some very rural areas such as Clifton, Great Falls and Gunston. On the other hand, Montgomery County has approximately 80 square miles of protected agricultural reserve. As stated, Fairfax and Montgomery are very similar in nature so the transition has been seamless.

Anonymous User : How has firefighting changed over the last 30 years? It seems to be more on the rescue operations side rather than fire, correct? How do you see the profession evolving in the future?

Richard Bowers : The response environment has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. Our response to fires has changed from response to ordinary combustible fires to rapidly developing and spreading synthetic-based fires. Our emergency medical calls and special operations now include active shooter events and all hazard-type special operation responses. Again it is important to have the right number of personnel that are trained, certified and equipped to handle the changed response environment. We need to continue to match the resources to the response environment to be able to deliver service in a timely manner in order to make a difference in the outcome.

Paul : Chief: Can we expect you to start tweeting!?

Richard Bowers : I am excited to say that I am looking forward to tweeting in the near future.

Anonymous User : Are any more fire stations planned? Or is coverage good across the county?

Richard Bowers : As the county continues to develop and grow in population, the Fire and Rescue Department continuously evaluates the need to maintain and improve our response times. Therefore, we constantly make assessments of where we need additional units and/or stations based on the response environment, response times and incident call volume. The challenge regarding coverage in the county is having enough units to respond to the second, third and fourth emergency calls the department receives during a short period of time in various service areas of the county.

Tysons Man : The police have opened a new unit for Tysons. What is the fire department doing to address the forthcoming urban changes to Tysons?

Richard Bowers : The Fire and Rescue Department has developed a strategic plan which addresses the needs associated with the redevelopment of the Tysons area. Initially, the plan includes placing a fourth Firefighter/Paramedic on the ladder truck in the Tysons station (July 2014) to address any potential increase in emergency medical service calls, advanced life support incidents and structure fires. The strategic plan also looks at a potential second fire station in the McLean/Tysons area. In the interim, the Wolf Trap Fire Station 42 was opened in October 2013 in anticipation of the redevelopment of Tysons and the opening of the additional Metro stations on the Silver Line. Fire Station 42 responds not only in the immediate area but also provides support in surrounding areas such as Dranesville, Great Falls, Tysons and McLean.

Dave : Are their currently plans to rebuilt/replace fire stations 404? Also any plans to rebuild or replace any other stations (418 etc)

Richard Bowers : Herndon Fire Station 404 has been approved and funded to be rebuilt as part of the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The temporary station should be operational this spring and demolition/construction of the present fire station 404 should occur shortly thereafter. Station 418, as well as other stations are being considered in the FY 2016 CIP.  It is hoped that funding for Fire Station 418 and other fire station renovations and rebuilds will be approved.

Anonymous User : Chief, what ideas do you have about alternative service delivery models, such as different methods to provide manpower and ALS providers when needed but without putting excessive mileage on increasingly expensive heavy apparatus.

Richard Bowers : We are currently developing a strategic plan for a community paramedicine program. The important thing to remain focused on is making sure that we get the right number of people with the right training, certification and equipment to make the difference in someone's life or property, regardless of the type of unit that responds to the call.

Angela : Chief, when is the Massey Building going away?

Richard Bowers : It is anticipated that the new public safety headquarters will be built in the fall of 2016 adjacent to the Herrity and Pennino buildings and we would be able to occupy the new headquarters. When the move is concluded, the Massey Building will be demolished. 

Caitlin : Will we be able to see a schedule for locations and visits? I'd like to be home for it (and my kids would be super excited to show off our new smoke detectors).

Richard Bowers : Thank you very much for your interest in the safety of your family and the community. I would suggest that you contact your local Fairfax County Fire and Rescue station, ask for the captain on duty and inquire when they will be doing the Safety in Our Community visits in your neighborhood. You may also ask if a unit from the station can come by your home to do a home safety inspection or smoke alarm check at your convenience. The station personnel would appreciate meeting you and your children to see the new smoke alarms.

Richard Bowers : Thank you for your interest today. I am very honored and proud to serve as your Fire Chief.  And please everyone, check your smoke alarms! Be safe and thank you.