In response to a comment in the Last Word on June 10, I would like to share the following information about the need for a sixth fire station in James City County. The James City County Comprehensive Plan calls for the construction of a fire station in areas with greater than six-minute response times and at least 365 calls annually. It is understood that a sixth firehouse in or around the Lightfoot area is necessary to handle the increasing number of calls with response times greater than six minutes.

It is anticipated that a fire station in the Lightfoot area would respond to 800 to 1,000 calls annually. The additional station would reduce the response area for Fire Station 1 (Toano), which would allow those units to be available more often for responses to the upper end of the county with already increased response times due to distance. An interim step to alleviate this current need would be to add additional staff to Fire Station 1. This would help with the volume of responses, and they could then be relocated to the new station once constructed. The sixth fire station was slated for construction in 2021 but was nixed due to the pandemic.

The National Fire Protection Association states that in order to meet the minimum requirements, a fire station must be able to arrive on scene with the proper number of first responders within three to five minutes to at least 90% of the district they are responsible for. It also important for citizens and business owners to know that the three-to-five-minutes on scene time is critical both for EMS and fire responses. For every minute a fire is allowed to burn, it doubles in size. After five minutes, the fire can spread out of the area of origin. Regarding EMS, if paramedics cannot reach the patient with a stroke or heart attack within the five-minute minimum requirement, permanent brain damage, heart muscle and/or organ damage may occur or even death.

A lot of folks assume that the fire house in Toano is sufficient and can meet the community needs. It is not anymore. It is actually very difficult for that fire house to meet a five-minute response time to the edge of both ends of its district and even parts of “The Haven” or the schools on Jolly Pond Road. Toano covers from the Lightfoot area all the way to the New Kent line. So, when responding to the Stonehouse district, there is approximately an 8-10-minute response time depending on how far into the neighborhood the call is — and that is with units in station, not in the middle of training or on another call. If the ambulance is out on a call already, the next closest ambulance will be coming from Olde Town Road or mutual aid from York County. At times, an ambulance from John Tyler Highway could be responding, which is almost a 15-plus minute response time if no other units from Toano are available to begin patient care. This also relates to fire suppression. It is true that Fire Station 1 is “well equipped,” but it is staffed with volunteer and only five to six full-time personnel. Fire Station 1 is the only station in the county that relies on volunteers and employees. So, the need for an additional station in the upper end of the county is critical. Lastly, homeowners in Upper County are paying more for their homeowner’s insurance because response times are outside of the requisite response times.

Lisa Ownby lives in Toano and is running for the James City County Board of Supervisors Stonehouse seat.