Roanoke County dissolves Hollins Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department after audit cites internal problems

Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 7:02 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke County is dissolving the Hollins Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. An audit from an outside agency led to the disbanding.

The Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads (VAVRS) conducted the audit in August after Roanoke County suspended all volunteer department operations. The audit recommended the department should dissolve.

Jeremy Kennedy has been with the volunteer rescue department for years. He explained the rescue squad has been focused on community outreach in Roanoke County.

“The news brought some members to tears,” Kennedy said. “There’s people on the community outreach side that don’t have anybody else to check on them. There’s nobody else in the state for them, or they just don’t have any family left; who’s going to check on them?”

The dissolution comes during an active investigation of embezzlement within the department. The audit found problems with the department’s bylaws, organizational structure and fighting between the volunteer divisions of fire and rescue.

“Apparent infighting within the agency and among its leadership is not conducive to fulfilling your objectives as a functional EMS agency,” VAVRS president Wesley Melson said in the audit report. “The agency in its present form should dissolve.”

“Not everybody gets along with everybody, but when you’re on a call, you are a family,” Kennedy said. “In that very moment you are a family and you rely on family during your call to get through it.”

The problems also lie within the number of response calls from the volunteer department.

Roanoke County reports in 2022, there have been 2,215 calls from the 911 dispatch for Fire-EMS. The volunteer rescue squad responded to 2.5% of those calls. The volunteer fire department responded to zero calls.

“I don’t remember the last time I saw them [volunteer fire members] on a truck,” Kennedy said. “They come out for events occasionally, but they never run.”

Members like Kennedy are now looking to keep the organization going.

“We’re trying to see if we can get an agreement with neighboring areas,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully the next step is to just change homes.”

Roanoke County declined an on-camera interview about the disbandment and ongoing embezzlement investigation.

Roanoke County has emphasized this will not impact the career staff of Roanoke County Fire-EMS and will not impact any public safety services for the community.