There’s a new Fire/EMS chief in Hanover, but he’s not new to Hanover.
Jethro Piland III started out at an early age by emulating his father. The Mechanicsville physician would make house calls, and 5-year-old Jethro would tag along and keep the family entertained.
“I saw a lot of that compassion, service, and medicine first-hand watching him, and of course as a young kid, my hero was my dad,” Piland said.
Being “more of an adrenaline junkie” than his father, Piland took that sense of compassion and service to the East Hanover Rescue Squad in 1990 as a volunteer.
“I got to do medicine, but I got to do medicine with lights and sirens and I got to deal with emergencies,” he said.
The Virginia Military Institute graduate had considered going to medical school or working at a hospital, but once he “got bit by the bug,” he became an EMS “lifer.”
After seven years of EMS service, he received his fire training to prepare for the potential merging of the fire and EMS departments, which occurred in 2002.
Since then, he has served as division chief of operations, division chief of training, and, most recently, division chief of administration, where he focused on logistical and budgetary matters.
The previous Hanover Fire/EMS chief, Fred Crosby, retired in October, at which point Piland was promoted to acting chief. Last month, he was selected among a field of 49 applicants for the official position.
“To me, it’s about serving the people. To me, it’s about the individual connection with the family or the family member,” Piland said.
He keeps up his training to make sure he doesn’t become “just a guy stuck behind a desk.”
“My role is to lead the organization, to remove the roadblocks, and to support the personnel, and if that means that they’re in a crisis situation and they need me to step up to the plate and provide the care or provide fire command, I’m ready to do that,” Piland said.
“I know that I have quality fire and EMS personnel to do those roles—quality leaders to lead those situations, so it’s an honor as well to lead those folks that do the work that I most appreciate,” he said.
Piland is especially proud that Hanover Fire/EMS combines career and volunteer personnel.
“We have strong career providers, and we have strong volunteer providers. And my goal is for the citizens in the community not to know who is who. You’re going to see professionals hop off of the fire truck,” he said.
Hanover Fire/EMS has approximately 160 career personnel (including administrative staff) and 750 active volunteers. They’re always looking to expand their ranks.
“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year is a long time. It’s holidays. It’s birthdays. It’s vacation time. So, we’re always trying to find that balance of getting the right people in the right spot responding to the right calls,” Piland said.
In recent years, in response to the economic recession, the two deputy chief positions have been converted to firefighter positions.
“Where we needed the help was in the field,” Piland said, adding that he hopes to be able to restore a deputy-level position someday, but they’re not there yet.
The Fire/EMS budget still supports volunteer training. Opportunities include the volunteer fire academies, a basic EMT course through a partnership with J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, and an advanced paramedic program.
“When we get to growth, I want more opportunities,” Piland said.
Piland also wants to improve the department’s efficiency.
“I think we do a great job, but I’d like to be a little more efficient,” he said.
“I’m humbled and honored to lead the men and women in the organization, both career and volunteer,” Piland said.
“It’s a great honor for me to represent them making the decisions to move the department forward, representing them to the county administrator and to the Board of Supervisors, [and] being out there with the public.”
He added, “Those are the things that excite me.”