Rupert Volunteer Firefighters are proud of the new helipad in their backyard and rightfully so. Through hard work and dedication to serving those in western Greenbrier County, the dream of building the helipad has become a reality.
According to Ronnie McClung, president of the Rupert Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors, this helipad will allow for safe air ambulance evacuations. It officially opened on Monday, Nov. 1, and will primarily serve those in the Quinwood, Rainelle, Smoot and Clintonville areas.
It took $25,000 to build, but that is a small price considering the impact that it will have on residents.
Each year, there are about 25 air ambulance evacuation assistance needed calls that come through the Rupert Volunteer Fire Department, said Bruce Alley, vice-president of the Rupert Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors. Of those calls, about 99% of the evacuations are completed at the Burns Motor Freight Company lot located adjacent to Route 60 in Sam Black.
For each evacuation at this site, four firefighters and two trucks must respond to assist other first responders and provide traffic control.
Traffic must be stopped on Route 60 until a patient can be safely loaded into the helicopter and the pilot has clearance for take-off, added McClung. This creates a safety hazard for all those involved and can slow down the process of getting a patient in critical need to the hospital.
Now, the new concrete helipad is located in a safe location where traffic control is not needed. Instead, first responders may arrive at the fire department and focus on getting the patient the help he/she needs. There is a concrete walkway that leads to the helipad, so first responders can safely unload the patient from the back of the ambulance directly onto the helipad while staying clear of mud, gravel and other hindrances.
“I like this being there,” McClung said of the location of the helipad. McClung also stated that he was able to install lighting around the helipad, which will help pilots land at night. The work he completed on lighting saved the department about an additional $8,000.
In addition to this cost-cutting measure, McClung said that construction on the helipad would never have been completed if it were not for the land donation by the Greenbrier County Board of Education.
When Rupert Elementary School moved to its current location back in 2019, this left the three-story structure and surrounding buildings and land along Anjean Road vacant. However, this vacancy was not to last long.
Through work with The Marvel Center, the Meadow River Valley Association and the Rupert Volunteer Fire Department, Greenbrier County Schools donated the buildings and some property to create what is now becoming a community hub of activity.
“We are thankful for the work that they have done,” said Jeff Bryant, superintendent of Greenbrier County Schools. “What they are doing is outstanding.”
“On behalf of the Greenbrier County Board of Education and Greenbrier County Schools, this is an example of a successful transfer of a Greenbrier County Schools building and property. These organizations are maintaining the integrity of a building for uses that bring great benefits to the community and surrounding areas of western Greenbrier County,” Bryant stated. “This is a sterling example of a community pulling together through positive leadership.”
As for Rupert volunteer firefighters, Bryant said that their enthusiasm is infectious.
“When you are around them, you just get inspired. These are some of the most inspiring people. It’s all about loving their community and being willing to step up and do the work. We are just so honored to have been a small part of this.”
Alley noted that he has been in discussions with White Sulphur Springs EMS and air ambulance providers about the new helipad. He said everyone is really excited about it.
“We have all been working together to make this a success,” he said. “We think it is.”