ROANOKE (WSLS 10) -A growing trend across the region and the commonwealth leaves challenges for first responders.
Fire and EMS departments are facing a shortage of volunteers and money.
Among many municipalities, Roanoke County is one that faced a lack of firefighters earlier this year.
Despite hiring 12 new recruits, the department is still looking for volunteers.
Meanwhile a Roanoke County man is petitioning the board of supervisors for more money for first responders after he says he waited for 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at his home after calling 9-1-1 because of heart attack symptoms.
Now Gary Greer is voicing his concerns about staffing at local fire and ems stations.
“It was very scary,” Greer said.
After suffering what’s called a “widow maker” heart attack in 2002, Greer now wears a chain with his medical information around his neck wherever he goes.
“You never know when you start having those pains,” Greer said.
He knows he’s susceptible for another heart attack so if he feels symptoms coming on, mere minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
In November, Greer was at his Roanoke County home when he felt the symptoms for a second time.
“When we called, we thought they would be there in a short time. After about 25 minutes, they still hadn’t gotten back to the house,” Greer said. His wife called a second time before they arrived.
Despite living near Mason Cove Fire and EMS station, only one paid paramedic is on staff during the night.
An ambulance in Hollins had to respond that night which is more than a 15 minute drive away.
Greer has since discussed his concerns with local fire and EMS officials. He says his concerns were well received. Now he wants to help.
“Their biggest problem was they needed more people. They needed more people for the rescue squad,” Greer said.
He’s working with county leaders to help get the staffing needed including talking to board of supervisor member Martha Hooker who represents the Catawba District.
“Our firefighters and EMS do a great job and provide great service to our community,” said Hooker in a statement. “They are asked to do a lot and do not take that responsibility lightly. But they are stretched thin. There is a valid concern. As far as funding, there are other competing interests and challenges. In a best case scenario we want to fund them all.”
Greer’s hoping to get fire and ems service pushed to the front of the line as the County begins their yearly review of staffing and budgets.
Now, he is working on a community petition to present to the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors asking for more money for Roanoke County Fire and EMS.