Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Editorial on Fatal Feb. 5 fire
The editorial writers crafted an editorial on the Feb. 5 fire that killed Sandy Hill.
You can read it here. The writer raises some questions that I haven’t yet asked of county officials.
In related news, earlier this week I got a call from a training officer for another combined fire and rescue system in Virginia. The guy asked me if I could send him a copy of the dispatch recording because they wanted to use it for training. He said they have a simulator which basically allows them to play the dispatch tape and have the trainees respond to it as if it were a real call.
“It is not being used to criticize anyone at all,” the man told me. “This can sharpen our skills. It will be all positive.”
I will be sending him the dispatch recordings. It sounds like something positive is already coming from this tragedy.
Later that evening, a Spotsylvania County firefighter, who gave his name but I won’t print it, left me a rather vicious voice mail, calling me a “piece of trash” for writing the articles about the volunteers and the Feb. 5 fire, and he is “appalled” with the article because “unless you’ve been there, unless you’ve seen what we’ve seen, you have no right to write what you write. Nobody understands what those men went through.”
Some of the message was choppy, so I am not sure what else he may have said.
In a quick response, I can say that he is correct in saying I was not there and I was not involved in the search for Ms. Hill. But I can say with certainty that I fully understand what “those men went through” but in a different way.
For almost three weeks all I did was work on this story. I interviewed more than 20 people and gave several volunteer leaders opportunity to talk to me, but some either couldn’t, didn’t want to, or maybe they plan to later.
I listened to the recordings more times than I could emotionally bear. For the entire time working on the series of articles, I was fully engaged with Hill’s family, friends, some volunteers and Chief Chris Eudailey. Speaking to Hill’s mother was equally as jarring, but I wasn’t risking my life doing it. I was doing my job.
When I was finished, I was emotionally spent.
I was hurting for everyone involved. I personally told Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue Administrative Chief Kevin Dillard that it pained me to write these articles because of the amount of respect I have for volunteers, and firefighters/medics in general.
Each time I listened to the entire 911 call and the recordings, I felt like I was there. I left work at times depressed.
I heard a woman die on the phone.We obviously could not release the entire 911 call because it is too disturbing. But I had to listen to it, over and over and over, to gather details of the incident that came out of that call. I will never forget it.
I heard firefighters screaming for Sandy in the room where her door stood. As the incident came to an end, I was fully aware of the loss and the emotions that come with that loss. I was frustrated and confused.
But when I go back to the original article that was written about this incident and compare it with what I’ve gathered in those three weeks, there is a level of credibility in asking the difficult questions and performing my duties as a journalist.
If that makes me a piece of trash, then I am OK with it.