The “mass casualty event” happened 15 days after Carr Boyd became the first director of emergency services for Botetourt County. Boyd, 39, was in his office in Fincastle on May 23 when dispatch announced a school bus had flipped on a rural road and landed on its top. He and division chiefs Jason Ferguson and David Firestone sped to the accident site, arriving soon after a sheriff’s deputy. Ferguson assumed command of the scene.
Boyd tracked the status of people who had been aboard the bus, communicated with county officials and the media and played other supporting roles. Thirteen of 39 students were taken to hospitals in Roanoke and Salem. All were treated and released that day.
“We were very fortunate, obviously,” Boyd said during a June 7 interview. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Boyd said that day’s emergency response, by volunteers and paid staff, “to a very emotional event,” was professional and empathetic. “It was very reassuring to see the deliberate and calm actions taken by our people,” he said.
Boyd seems deliberate and calm about his new job coordinating fire, rescue and hazardous materials response in Botetourt County, even though controversy about the position preceded his hiring.
At least three of Botetourt County’s seven volunteer fire departments expressed strong reservations about the new job. They recognized that a new director of emergency services would have the authority to arrive at an emergency scene and take over “when deemed necessary for the welfare of the public or responders.”
They worried that a heavy-handed director would elicit hard feelings, erode volunteer morale and create other problems. County officials and others predicted such takeovers would rarely occur. Boyd has participated to date in several emergency response situations and not yet taken over a scene. He shrugged.
“There are no words that are going to allay those fears,” Boyd said. “It’s actions, period. I think we are making some inroads, but there is work to be done.” Ultimately, he said, “Who is in command is not a relevant issue, only that we handle the incident in an effective and safe manner.”
Mike Durham is chief of the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Department. He and other VFD chiefs met with Boyd last week. Durham said it’s too soon to render judgment about how Boyd and the volunteer departments will work together.
“He’s just getting settled in,” Durham said. “But as far as I know at this point, everything seems to be going pretty smooth and pretty well.”
Billy Joe Carter, chief of the Buchanan Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the most outspoken critics of the new position. Carter deferred comment last week until after the chiefs meeting but could not be reached afterward. Scott Paderick, chief of the Troutville Volunteer Fire Department, also expressed concerns early on. But Paderick said Friday that he believes Boyd is the right person for the job. He said he has met with him several times.
“I think it might be the best move the county’s made in hiring him,” Paderick said. “He’s a very smart individual and he knows how the system is supposed to work.” He said Boyd “comes from a volunteer base” and wants the fire departments in Botetourt County to work together.
‘Proponent’ of Volunteers
A native of Charlotte, N.C., Boyd was a captain with the Charlotte Fire Department before taking the Botetourt County job, for which his annual salary is $70,000. He is married and anticipates his wife and three children will join him in Botetourt County later this month. Boyd has a doctorate in public policy from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, a master’s degree in public administration from UNCC, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Hampden-Sydney College.
In April 1993, while a full-time student at Hampden-Sydney, Boyd joined the Prince Edward County Volunteer Rescue Squad. He later joined the Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire Department and at one point was an officer in both departments. He said he got hooked on emergency services work.
Boyd completed the paramedic program at the Medical College of Virginia in the mid-1990s and worked as a paramedic at a Mecklenburg County, N.C., emergency medical services agency before being hired by the Charlotte Fire Department in October 1998. He said the Botetourt County job interested him both personally and professionally.
“Obviously, the place is attractive for a myriad of reasons, including the outdoors,” Boyd said. “And it’s a unique opportunity to exercise leadership and, hopefully, make a significant contribution to emergency services for the county.”
Boyd said he is “a huge proponent” of volunteer systems and that service in such departments represents a hefty commitment to the community.
“It takes an inordinate amount of sacrifice,” he said, to get trained, stay trained and do the work.
“It takes a special person,” Boyd said. “We deal with really challenging circumstances that some people are not cut out to deal with.”
Emergency services responders witness the human consequences of bad accidents, fires, crime and more.
“I think everybody handles things differently,” Boyd said. “A lot of it is best handled in the fire department or rescue building with your colleagues, being able to sit around and talk about things.”
Boyd said he has been spending long days his first few weeks getting to know the people with whom he will be working. What he’s found so far has been positive, he said.
“We have really good people, high-level people with high integrity, who work hard,” he said. “And that’s a pleasure.”