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Fire department staffing increase leads county to renovate fire stations

(Updated at 3 p.m.) A half-dozen Arlington fire stations will be upgraded to accommodate more firefighters.

The renovations will give firefighters and EMTs at Fire Stations 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 more space and amenities to use while they’re at the station.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved the $1.4 million project, which responds to a recent change to the Arlington County Fire Department’s schedule that required the department to hire more staff.

Last month, the county officially implemented the “Kelly Day,” an extra 24-hour shift off every 28 days, which reduces a firefighter’s average work week from 56 to 50 hours per week. The day helps reduce absenteeism, exposure to hazardous and stressful conditions, and overtime, while improving work-life balance, recruitment and retention, according to the county.

“[The] implementation of the Kelly Day [is] the result of committed funding across multiple years and dedicated advocacy on behalf of our firefighters to modernize the schedule of the Arlington fire service to improve their balance and quality of life to make ACFD more competitive across the region,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said on Saturday. “We’re really excited to see the Kelly Day implemented as a way of thanking and respecting our firefighters as the professionals they’ve been, especially our firefighter EMTs, who’ve worked so hard during the pandemic.”

Kelly Day planning began in the 2017-18 fiscal year, and the county began funding additional firefighter positions in the 2019 fiscal year, ACFD spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner tells ARLnow. Between then and the official implementation on Jan. 16 of this year, the department hired 39 firefighter EMTs.

Those 39 firefighters will need additional personnel lockers for their gear, uniforms and street clothing, he said. Other upgrades include expanded refrigeration and storage spaces in the kitchen, additional bathrooms and showers, stackable washer-dryer units to increase laundry capacity and expanded and improved gym areas.

Only Fire Station 4 will require additional locker space after these renovations are complete, says Hiner.

Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn, which was finished last summer, has the additional amenities, as will the new Fire Station 8 in the Halls Hill neighborhood once it’s complete about two years from now, he said. The old Fire Station 8 is currently being torn down and crews are operating from a temporary station.

Also related to firefighters, the County Board approved a deadline extension in its civic code giving new labor unions — authorized last year — more time to get through the necessary procedures to officially form as collective bargaining units. Firefighters were concerned that the delayed hire of a labor relations administrator would put off compensation negotiations another year.

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