Trending Topics

Va. interim fire chief puts plan to replace fire engines with ambulances on hold

Alexandria Interim Fire Chief Jim Schwartz stated that staff are reviewing years of call data to assess the impact on neighborhoods


Alexandria Fire Department Engine 205.

Alexandria Fire Department/Facebook

By Bill Carey

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Alexandria Interim Fire Chief Jim Schwartz has paused a departmental redeployment plan that aimed to replace two fire engines with ambulances.

Former Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley announced the AFD Forward plan in September, proposing to replace fire engines at Stations 204 and 205 with ambulances, ALXNow reported.

In 2022, fire department data showed that 72% of over 27,000 incidents were medical and rescue-related, while only 15% were fire-related.

Schwartz stated that department staff are now reviewing seven years of call data to assess if reducing fire engines would affect neighboring jurisdictions.

“We haven’t implemented anything on AFD Forward,” Schwartz said. “If we switched out engines for ambulances, would that cause Arlington and Fairfax to run more engine calls into Alexandria? We didn’t have an answer for that. So we’re doing an analysis of that right now.”

Schwartz said the department’s plans should not negatively impact neighboring Fairfax and Arlington Counties.

“It is a way of doing business that has been around for a long time,” he said. “I think our participation in that, from which we benefit greatly, also causes an obligation on us to make sure that when we’re making some resource decisions that they serve the citizens of Alexandria very well, but they also are done in concert with our partnership with in this case Arlington and Fairfax.”

Schwartz oversaw Arlington’s fire department for 12 years and became interim fire chief in January. He is now helping the city look for a replacement chief.

Years of preplanning aided the incident command of an MCI, building fire, technical rescue, hazmat, and terrorism crime scene all in one

“The new chief has to have some technical competence,” Schwartz said. “They need to be able to deal with budget issues, capital issues, things like the fleet and firehouses. But I think that the most prominent feature that we’re looking for is somebody who has an ability to lead and the ability to connect with the members of the organization to help them thrive in their service to the community.”