EMS sidebar: Why One Department Made the Switch

The first steps to involve the Chesterfield, VA, Fire Department in emergency medical services were initiated by Chief Robert Eanes, the county’s first fire chief, who required all new firefighters to be certified as emergency medical technicians beginning in 1977.

As Chesterfield County experienced rapid population growth through the 1980s and early 1990s, the demand for emergency medical services increased as well. During those years, the fire department continued to expand into the area of EMS by training firefighters to serve as paramedics, using cross-trained firefighters to staff ambulances owned by the volunteer rescue squads and ultimately ambulances that were purchased and operated by the fire department, and assigning firefighter/paramedics to the Medflight program – a joint air-medical program between Chesterfield County and the Virginia State Police. In 1999, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors voted to designate the fire chief as the primary EMS official, with the title “Fire & EMS Chief,” to ensure better coordination of the emergency medical services delivered by the fire department and the four volunteer rescue squads that operate within the county. Soon thereafter, the department name was officially changed to Chesterfield Fire & EMS.

Today, Chesterfield Fire & EMS is an “all-hazards” department comprised of nearly 500 career members and more than 250 volunteers who operate from 21 fire-EMS and eight EMS-only stations and protect 325,000 citizens in a 446-square-mile area. The department responds to more than 36,000 emergency calls each year, 80% of which involve EMS incidents.

Chief Loy Senter, Chesterfield Fire & EMS