WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM)–The Winchester Fire and Rescue Department’s public hearing might’ve had plenty of empty seats, but residents asked plenty of questions.

“We’re here because we’re concerned about the safety of the citizens,” said President of Winchester Professional Firefighters & Paramedics, Local 3401 Allen Ballenger. “Right now we have fire trucks going out on calls, responding to emergencies with only the driver and we’re hoping that this study shows how important it is for more staffing on the fire trucks.”

The WFRD has recruited the Emergency Services Consulting International to perform a long-range master plan study for Winchester. Through a survey, their goal is to reach and exceed the community’s safety needs.

“It’s very important we get the public’s input because we serve them,” said Fire Chief William Garrett. “This would help us in a lot of ways give the city leadership the buy-in from the community.”

Over the course of several years, local full-time and volunteer firefighters feel that the city of Winchester is at an all-time high safety risk, due to several reasons.

“The end goal is to increase the safety for the firefighters and residents of the city of Winchester,” said Ballenger. “The NFPA standard, we are far from that and we’re hoping to reach that.”

But, the survey is just the beginning. The fire department plans to use the survey results to answer the community’s questions and concerns.

“This is where the rubber meets the road, how do we move our system along and start that strategic planning process to start making sure we are truly taking care of our community where it needs to be, and not where we think it should be,” said Chief Garrett. “This process that ESCI is walking us through is much needed.”

An online version of the survey opened Monday night and will stay open until March.