Friday, April 29, 2022

James City County NFPA 1710 requirements and life should be more than a living wage for professional public servants.

I had written an opinion in the Virginia Gazette concerning pay and benefits for County employees. 

Our Administrator responded to my opinion with the idea our firefighters are well paid and meet NFPA 1710.  Some in my community want a tax cut due to rising housing valuations. I was of the opinion that tax cuts hurt county employees. 

I offered this rebuttal. 

I want to respond to Scott Stevens. 

First and foremost, I can understand the response to my opinion; perhaps we can learn more. It is true to say the AFL-CIO fireman association did mail me literature seeking a contribution and noted the county's failure to meet NFPA 1710. 

To County Administrator Stevens, 

If the AFL-CIO lied, perhaps our county attorney needs to look into the false information. We can be like Twitter, canceling those with whom we disagree. JCC should take false allegations seriously if what you wrote is valid regarding the claims I quoted in my original opinion? 

The James City County Fire department boasted a 6:02-minute response time in 2017. This response time came from an article found in the Gazette from 2017. That is the best I can find. I emailed the fire department to ask about response times in 2022 but have not heard back. Mr. Stevens, can you please ask the Fire Chief to answer my question? 

After doing some research, I found that a response time of 6.65 minutes is required for the first fire engine with four firefighters to respond to low-level hazard calls like home fires, according to NFPA guidelines. I am not an expert, and I emailed Mr. Stevens asking for clarification but only received a short reply that never answered questions. 

My county Supervisor never responded at all. I might suppose that I have been critical of his leadership at times, and I have sided with John many times as the reason for no response. I am critical of what I see as the liberal indoctrination of our children at William and Mary and other liberal colleges, high schools, and now even in grade school. Perhaps many who read this will understand my concern for our children. Still, John, a government professor by profession, you should respond to your citizen's concerns, in my opinion, whether you agree or not. 

My evaluation:

How do fire departments accurately evaluate their response in these three areas? NFPA 1710: Standard for Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments establishes criteria that provide an excellent place to start. Those criteria include:

  • Alarm Answering Time: 15 seconds for 95% of calls; 40 seconds for 99% of calls
  • Alarm Processing Time: 64 seconds for 90% of calls; 106 seconds for 95% of calls
  • Turnout Time: 60 seconds for EMS responses; 80 seconds for fire responses
  • First Engine Arrive on Scene Time: 240 sec (4 minutes) for 90% of responses with minimum staffing of 4 personnel
  • Second Company Arrive on Scene Time: 360 seconds (6 minutes) for 90% of responses with minimum staffing of 4 personnel
  • Initial Full Alarm – Low and Medium Hazard Assembly Time: 480 seconds (8 minutes) on 90% of responses
  • Initial Full Alarm – High Hazard/High-Rise Assembly Time: 610 seconds (10 minutes 10 seconds) on 90% of responses

So the way I read this is, from the time I call in a fire, 15 seconds, 64 seconds, 80 seconds, 240 seconds, I should expect the fire truck to arrive. 399 seconds / 60 = 6.65 minutes. the response time of 6:03 is based on 2017. 

 Firefighters pay:  

 The salary Mr. Stevens quoted in the paper was $47,000, and equates to a monthly payment of $3,917, a weekly pay of $904, and an hourly wage of $22.60, according to "living wage" 

Note: A living wage is a minimum income required to meet basic needs. According to " living wage, a single adult needs 18.95 an hour to survive a living wage to live in James city county. One adult with one child 34.82 an hour. Interestingly enough, two adults and one child need $33.24. Obviously, a couple with a child cannot possibly live a traditional lifestyle whereby one adult stays home, raises the child, and one life partner works. I note this because I see this issue as one of the main reasons our society has declined over the decades. 

It seems to me James City County barely pays a living wage for firefighters entering the trade and if they have one child seem to fall woefully short in providing a compensation whereby firefighters can live in our county and not have to work two jobs. I know many firefighters work second jobs just like our teachers et al. 

Let us look at this from another point of view.

According to what I could find, the median home listing price in James City County is 435k. According to budget, this is a 1922.00 a month with 87,000 down (20%) @ 5.25% - 30 years loan. I would advise any young person seeking to be a homeowner to consider 30% of their income per month for living arrangements. 3,917 * .3 = $1,175  

A firefighter who is single with one child cannot even afford a basic one-bedroom apartment on a salary of 47000.00 in James City County. A single firefighter can not live in James City County. The best a firefighter can do is find a 250,000 home, and we all know this price range is hard to come by in desirable neighborhoods for professional firefighters. 

Note: My research found the following apartment cost. Typical rental prices for one-bedroom apartments. 2-bedroom apartments go even higher. 

1. Spotswood Commons = start at $1581.00

2. Regency at Longwood = start at $1250.00

3. Steeple Chase apartments = start at $1321.00

What should be the minimum salary? I can share my experience. I have a 23-year-old son who has just accepted a career job with Boeing. Jake will be moving to Charleston, SC. With a bachelor's degree and working in procurement, Jakes's starting salary is 60,000.000 with a bonus of 3000.00. Having helped Jake do the research, he could afford a one-bedroom apartment and stay under 30% at $1370.00 a month. I found the cost of living to be comparable to James City County. My daughter is graduating from WVU in May with a Masters's degree in Speech Pathology. She will be moving into a one-bedroom apartment with a roommate in Arlington Va working for Fairfax County Schools. Abby will be paid a starting salary of 65,000.00 a year. Both children were offered jobs locally. A person recruited my daughter from central office who knows my wife to come home and work in JCC. Both jobs were turned down simply because the cost of living was too high for the salary offered. Each would have had to live at home with their parents, and to me, that was not an option. Young adults living at home with parents have become the norm and not the exception. That is where we fail as a society. 

The cost of living in Arlington, Va., is slightly higher than JCC. However, our teachers do not come close to the 60,000.00 required to live here. My children make more starting their lives than their mother with years of experience, a master's degree from W&M in special education, and math specialist. In the 1990's I worked for the Service Authority as an industrial mechanic. I worked for Larry Foster. I stayed for about seven years in that role, a role JCSA is still trying to fill, last I looked, with some meager wage. I left for the private sector doing the same work and never looked back, increasing my salary by three times the pay. For a professional to live in James City County, be it Police, EMT, Teacher, or Service Authority professionals, a starting salary of 60,000.00 is needed for a single person, a single person with one child, a family whereby one parent can stay home and raise children. Let that sink in, County board of supervisors and those who seek a tax cut. 

Finally and most importantly, Scott Stevens writes, and I quote here," exceeds the National Fire Protection Association standards for fire response to our most common fires. I congratulate the FD on achieving this benchmark if true, but what about uncommon fires? Which are not single-family dwelling fires."

Mr. Steven's statement refers to single-family residences only. Keep in mind these are minimums. Let us not live on the edge of minimums. I'm afraid I have to disagree with you if the fire department responds to a fire in JCC at 5 pm on a weekday. The FD will have trouble making the 6:65-minute total response time. A call in the middle of the night is an entirely different matter. We need to look at response times based on the time of day. We also need to consider if we are, in fact, ready to combat fires in addition to low-hazard residences. 

Example: NFPA 1710 

Open air strip malls - minimum of 27 members, 28 if an aerial device is used. (shopping centers apply.)

Garden-style apartments - a minimum of 27 members (28 aerial devices used.)

High rise - minimum of 42 members (43 if the building is equipped with a fire pump.)

Note: *Highest floor greater than 75 feet above the lowest fire department vehicle access level according to the 2016 NFPA 1710. 

Other fires: Anheuser Bush, Bush Gardens, Water Country USA, Walmart distribution center, William and Mary dormitories, timeshares, the new William and Mary theater is looking mighty tall during construction, and High Street View Luxury Apartments are structures that might meet the NFPA 1710. and require even more consideration. You can say some of these structures are located in the City of Williamsburg but don't tell me you won't respond if needed, and you will be needed, so prepare for that day.

Lastly, Two weeks ago, I noticed a fire on a strip of land between two multifamily dwellings while driving home on Neck-O-Land road on a weekday. Honestly, I do not remember the time. I remember being in the afternoon. I called 911 and reported the fire. I reported a fire about 20ft long 10 ft wide, and a tree is on fire. I surveyed the situation, grabbed a residential garden hose, turned on the water that had a 50ft hose from the multifamily dwelling, and diminished the fire. I did not time the Fire Department as I was busy working the fire. I will tell you the response time felt like more than 6:65 minutes. The response time was more like 15 minutes. I am sure you can clarify this call with the fire department. The fire department travel time to this residence is less than 10 miles away. Two trucks did respond with at least four firefighters on each truck and quickly took over. I watched a crew work this small brush fire that, had I not stopped, could have spread to multifamily residences as the fire was spreading quickly when I arrived on the scene. 

In this instance, the Fire Department may not have met the standard of NFPA 1710 of 6:65-minutes. I am not blaming the fire department. I want to support them as I can to write about the needs of our professionals. We need to look at a wage beyond basic needs, affordable housing, and road infrastructure. We need to understand how uncontrolled population growth and the lack of road infrastructure deters our police, fire department, and EMTs from responding within the (6:65-min.) time allotted per NFPA 1710. Decisions made decades ago as to the right to build in JCC have come to roost with what seems like slow response times by our firefighters, police, and EMTs per my recent experience, A response time that may not meet a 90% confidence factor at the 6:65-minute mark. We live with secondary road infrastructure built decades ago for a population half the size today. Another Daily Press article from 2017 tells us that in 2009 we had a police response time of 6.09 minutes, and in 2017, a response time of 7:14 minutes. How the FD can respond faster than the police in 2017 makes me wonder if the numbers we get are accurate. 

Traffic delays take lives when first responders need to move quickly, which is on the board of supervisors' lack of controlling growth and funding infrastructure. Also, note that I could not find average response times on the Police website or the Fire Department website. I look forward to a response from the FD to my question concerning response times in 2022. 


James City County does not pay a salary whereby a person can live in the county and live a life beyond paycheck to paycheck. Jame City County is losing employees to other adjoining counties simply because the pay is better. Our children are not coming home to live in JCC simply because the cost of living ratio to salary does not meet a life lived beyond paycheck to paycheck in some instances. 

I am still awaiting the fire chief's response to my question concerning response times. 

I emailed Mr. Stevens and John McGlennon first with my concerns. I had emailed a version of this commentary. I wanted to clean up the grammar before releasing it to the public. 

Here is what I got back from Mr. Stevens, as John never replied. Our board of supervisors and the county Administrator could interact with JCC citizens better; one might suppose to be true. I will assume my math is correct since Mr. Stevens had the opportunity to tell me otherwise. 

From the desk of Administrator Stevens: 

"Mr. Johnson,


Good morning.


Thank you for including me in your email. I appreciate your approach in sharing your thoughts and opinions. 


Let me know if you need anything from me."

The material used was taken from the NFPA 2016 standard. 

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