Vinton Firefighters trade in their badges as department absorbed by County

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VINTON, Va (WDBJ7) For lifelong firefighter Chad Helms, it was a special day. That's because, with a bit of help and a crowd looking on, Helms became a Roanoke County Firefighter.

"Feels pretty good," he said.

It was an experience shared by 10 others Wednesday, as the Vinton Fire department is absorbed into Roanoke County.

"It's just more operationally efficient," said Dan O'Donnell, Roanoke County's Administrator.

According to O'Donnell, Vinton's Fire Department is being absorbed as an old agreement with Roanoke County expires.

"We provided funds to Vinton. In exchange, they did not annex property for the county," he said of the 20-year-old agreement.

But with Vinton no longer looking to add territory, and Roanoke County already bankrolling Vinton's Fire Department, O'Donnell says it just made sense for the county to take the department over. It also comes with a number of advantages.

"It makes it easier to purchase equipment, to move people who need to be moved throughout the whole county," he said.

And says Roanoke County Fire Chief Steve Simon, this move won't impact the service delivered to Vinton. "No, they will not see any difference," he said.

For firefighters like Chad Helms, the transition didn't just mean a new badge. Helms and the other firefighters got a pay raise, and the opportunity to move up within a much larger fire department.

"We can go anywhere within the Roanoke County system," he said.

With the ceremony done and the change official, Helms says he's ready to serve the people of Roanoke County for years to come. "It's nice to finally have the transition done and move forward and continue to do the job we love to do," he said.