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Va. volunteer fire departments lack insurance, equipment

Funding issues are the root of several problems at volunteer fire departments in one Virginia county

PEARISBURG, Va. — Ten volunteer fire departments are allegedly facing a range of serious issues including outdated equipment, a lack of insurance coverage and embezzlement accusations.

The Roanoke Times reported that several departments are using equipment that no longer meets federal safety standards. County Administrator Chris McKlarney said the county is working with fire departments to try to replace some of the outdated gear.

"We do not use any equipment that is not up to federal standards," Captain Nathan Frazier said.

According to a report written by Walt Bailey, chairman of the Virginia Fire Services Board, most of the county's fire departments do not carry workers' compensation for firefighters.

"We have insurance at our agency, we just do not have workers' compensation," said Capt. Nathan Frazier of the Giles County Lifesaving and Rescue Squad. "Our county funds the departments as well as they can and they are trying to improve what they offer to everyone. [And] We do not use any equipment that is not up to federal standards."

Capt. Frazier also said the investigation into embezzlement allegations is not connected with the county or its funding of the agency.

However, according to McKlarney, the county has funneled money into the 10 volunteer fire, medical and rescue nonprofits in the area for more than a decade with almost no oversight.

"Our county does not have a huge tax base to assist with funding of 10 volunteer agencies," Frazier said. "We work well with our county and have no complaints of them."

Bailey said struggles like these are common at volunteer fire departments but he is glad the Giles Squad is working towards fixing many of their issues.

"Obviously, none of this happened overnight," Bailey said. "It has taken years to get to the point where they are now. I absolutely applaud the board of supervisors for reaching out to us."

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