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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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FirefighterNation.com Blogger Says Response To Fatal Feb. 5 Fire “Was A Fiasco”

A retired veteran firefighter and paramedic from Caroline County Fire and Rescue blogged here that the handling of a fatal fire on Feb. 5 on Spotswood Furnace Road was was “a fiasco from the moment it was dispatched to the time units cleared the call.”

The writer, Brady Grim, says that “The first in Engine Company did find one victim inside the house on the primary search of the house and removed her, but she was not injured. After that patient was removed, the companies on the scene thought that they had removed everyone from the house and were seen in the front yard of the residence high fiving each other and congratulating each other because they knew they would get an award for this.”

Spotsylvania County Deputy Daniel Babcock’s police report for this Feb. 5 fire states that he saw firefighters putting gear away and sitting around after the first victim was rescued. Babcock assumed that the firefighters thought everyone was out of the house.

However, Sandy Hill was still in her second-floor bedroom on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. After more than 20 minutes searching, firefighters found Hill dead in her bedroom. According to the internal investigation, search teams passed over Hill’s bedroom door numerous times before actually opening it. A picture of the door shows numerous hand prints and hand swipes. The interview notes state that volunteers had a hard time finding the door because it was a room inside a room, the door was missing the knob and there was a lot of clutter.

A primary search is the first search of a structure for victims and it is supposed to be quick and methodically done. Every door and every room is supposed to be checked and tossed–even closets. Some volunteers stated in their interviews that they thought the door was to a closet.

“Finally, a crew found [Hill] and removed from the residence 20+ minutes after arrival of the first in units. Does this sound accepatble  (sic) to you? It sure does not to me! There were other mistakes made on this call. so many mistakes that the Chief of the Spotsylvania County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Management ordered a full investigation into this incident.”

Grim is asking people to read what the county released on its webpage and comment on his blog. Keep in mind that what the county released is not the full investigation but a summary of the investigation. Last week I obtained my copy of the full investigation, which contains pictures, diagrams, notes of interviews of the volunteers who responded that early morning and other documents.

Brady Grim for 23 years worked as a firefighter and paramedic and he retired as captain from the Caroline County Fire and Rescue in November 2008 because of a disability. He is now the chairman of the King William County Emergency Services / All Hazards Commission. He also is the  deputy emergency management coordinator for the Emergency Operations Center.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2010/06/01/firefighternation-com-blogger-calls-response-to-fatal-feb-5-fire-a-fiasco/

  • do_what

    I sincerely apologize! I have found the study online before but am unable to locate it myself. I do have a copy in hand and I am trying to find a way to post it for everyone’s enjoyment. Once again, I apologize for my error.

  • bhaas

    Another case of a disappearing report????

    Do_what, is your copy an electronic copy or is it a hard print copy? If it is an ecopy, simply email it, as an attachment, to Dan Telvock and he can email it to me.

    If it is a hard print copy, then digital scan is a possibility, but if it is many pages that may not be practical.

    Thus, if hard print, post any and all references to the organization that did the study and any other potentially interesting info that could lead us to a source.

    Thanks

  • B. M. Grim

    I am sorry if my original post came across as using “student” language. First off, my blog was posted on a Fire and Rescue Website, FireFighterNation, where I have a personal web page. It never was intended to be published, but it was and I was dragged into this scenario, incident, or whatever you may want to call it. So I will try to answer the questions posed to me in the previous posts.

    Yes, in my original “blog” on my website, I asked for other firefighters to help me understand how in today’s world of hign technology, which Spotsylvania does have, events like this can happen. If this ssounds like a student, so be it. I do a lot of training and sit on several Commissions, and I want to make sure that events like this never happen again. Will they happen again, of course, but through training and proper SOPs we can do everything possible to minimize the chance of it happening again. That is where my question come froms. Like Dan says, I was not privileged to the entire report, just the synopsis given to the BOS.

    As for being a professional, I consider myself a career firefighter / paramedic with 25 years of experience who had to retire at the rank of Captain due to a disability. I started off as a volunteer and I am very proud to admit that and will never forget that. I tried and still try to conduct myself in a professional manner each and every day I am involeved in any Emergency Services work.I never claimed to be a “pro” as I was referred to in one of the posts. The word “professional” can apply to both volunteer and career personell depending on how you act. I know of very many ‘ professional’ volunteers and their only difference from career firefighters is that they do not get paid. You have “unprofessional”firefighters on both sides of the coin.

    As for commenting on this fire and there being 3 different sets of SOPs, there is no excuse. There also is no excuse for not having up-to-date map books showing closest hydrants which units responding to the fire that morning did not have. Who do I blame for there being 3 different sets of SOPs , the volunteer members of the Fire/EMS Commission who are so afraid of change that they refuse to work with the County to develop one set for everyone to follow. It is a power struggle. No one in the 3 different volunteer departments wants to give up any powerr and by changing the SOPs, they are afraid they will lose power to the County. Chief Eudailey has done his best to try to make 1 set of Countywide SOPs but is met with so much resistance each time the topic is brought up, it is hard for him to keep fighting, although he does. That is why there are 3 different SOPs. I am sure others will differ with me and call me totally wrong, but this is the underlying truth. Go to a Fire/EMS Commission Meeting and see for yourself. You won’t be surprised. It makes running a Countywide Fire/Rescue system inefficient and difficult for the County Fire Chief. Things would be so much easier with one set of SOPs, standards, and uniform rank structures which it currently lacks in all aspects.

    I am waiting to see the comments made by the members of the Chancellor Volunteer Fire Department reference this fire that are supposed to be printed in the FLS this weekend before I make any more comments, but I will be happy to answer any more questions.

  • do_what

    bhaas,

    Not a disappearing report I just jumped the gun a little. I agree with many of the other comments that this should be on the county website for all to see. I have a hard copy of the report that was obtained from the Fire Administration Office several years ago. I would be surprised if Dan did not already have a copy of it as well. Anyway, I will do what I can to forward the information along. I think many would be surprised at the recommendations made over 10 years ago and how few of them have actually been implemented fully.

  • do_what

    The study was presented to the BOS on April 20, 1999 under the title “A Study of the Fire and Rescue Service of Spotsylvania County, Virginia”. Members of the study committee included representatives of various state organizations (VDFP, VOEMS, VFSB) and a few members of other fire and ems departments.

    They were tasked with reviewing four specific areas of the service: management, administration, and accountability; levels of service and minimum staffing; training; and recruitment and retention.

    After their review, the first recommendation was to appoint a County Fire Chief to oversee the operation of both career and volunteer resources. Nowhere in the report did it recommend to establish a fire and ems commission as the BOS chose to do. They also recommended standardized SOP’s, uniform rank structure, developing relationships with neighboring localities, and establishing a procedure for reviewing the organizations performance at incidents. All of those recommendations were under the management, administration, and accountability heading.

    Under levels of service and minimum staffing they recommended that 2 advanced life support (ALS) ambulances be staffed 24/7 with career personnel. Also, they suggested staffing one ladder truck with career personnel. If you remember from the fatal fire report this was one of the deficiencies noted. They went on the recommend response time goals.

    Training was the next topic and probably the one that got the most attention from the BOS and fire and ems commission. A training chief was hired, a regional traning facility was constructed, and annaul training plans are developed.

    Those are some of the highlights but there are still about 5 pages that I have not summarized.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    How many pages is this report? If you want to make a copy of it, I am willing to scan it in and provide it as an internet web-accessible document though I suspect Dan has access to resources to do this also – and so should the county.

  • do_what

    Larry,

    The report is 21 pages long. But I have quite a bit more information that may be beneficial for everyone to see. These include staffing charts, budget documents, and the breakdown of the revenue recovery funds. I am working on a way to get them to Dan (if he doesn’t already have them) so that he can disperse as necessary.

  • B. M. Grim

    I apologize for my numerous typos in my previous post. I am not a typist and never claimed to be one. For that, I am sorry.

  • bhaas

    While we wait for the 1999 Study Report to appear, below you will find a copy of the 4/20/99 BOS minutes where the Report was presented to the BOS.

    NOTE that three members of the current BOS were on that BOS.

    I call your particular attention to the next to last paragraph where the BOS asked questions and expressed concerns.

    Emmitt B. Marshall, Vice Chair
    Mary Lee Carter
    William L. Jones
    Jeny I. Logan
    Benjamin T Pitts
    RickWomble
    Ronnie B. Acors, Chair

    L. Kimball Payne, in. County Administrator

    The meeting was held in the School Board Meeting room due to renovations in the Holbert Building.

    Mr. Marshall called The meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

    Mr. Clinton H. Smoke, Professor at Northern Virginia Community College and a member of the Virginia Fire Services Board, introduced the members of the Fire and Rescue Study Committee and provided an overview of the committee’s findings.

    Other committee members present included Mr. David Cullen, Regulation and Compliance Manager, Office of the Emergency Medical Services, Battalion Chief David T. Endicott, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue, Mr. Wallace Robertson, Director Emeritus, York County Fire and Rescue Service, Mr. E. S. “Bart” Roby, m. Manager Area Two Training and Programs, Virginia Department of Fire Programs and Mr. Neil Stallings, EMS Program Representative, Office of Emergency Medical Services.

    Mr. Smoke reviewed the findings and recommendations of the committee in the following areas:
    • Management Administration and Accountability
    • Levels of Service and Minimum Staffing
    • Training
    • Recruitment and Retention

    Board members asked questions regarding the proposal that there be one central point of control for Fire and Rescue in Spotsylvania County. A general discussion then ensued including concerns about maintaining the viability of the volunteer organizations, levels of service, recruitment and the implementation of the report.

    After the discussion, the meeting was adjourned on a motion by Mrs. Carter, seconded by Mr. Pitts and
    approved 6-0 with Mr. Acors absent.

  • bhaas

    Following up to my post no. 109, I found the BOS minutes dated May 18, 1999. These are probably too extensive to copy and post here, but that meeting dealt exclusively with the 1999 Fire and EMS Study presented to them on April 20, 1999.

    Various members made comments and the crux of their position was worrying how having a central F&EMS manager would “affect” the volunteers.

    I believe, during the “executive” session at the May 18 meeting, the BOS decided to make Mr. Eudailey the CHIEF. Although I can not prove it, I also believe that the F&EMS Commission may have been born at that executive session.

    It is not a “stretch” too far to also conclude that the Commission was the way that was found to protect the Volunteers.

    The question I have is….from WHAT was it that the BOS was trying to protect the volunteers? Was someone paranoid or did they feel the volunteer turf would be endangered?

    In any event, with three of the current BOS having been on the 1999 BOS; it is not a stretch to speculate that this BOS will do nothing about having central control.

  • dtelvock

    I have the 1999 Study and I will be posting it soon for everyone to read. Three supervisors who are on the board now where also on the board in 1999, although they left for a term or two. Emmitt Marshall, Ben Pitts and Jerry Logan all served on the county board when this study was presented to the public.

    And last year, the Fire and Rescue Commission voted 3-2 to not have the state come in and study the system again for improvements. The commission, which has three of the five members representing the volunteers, said they didn’t want to have the state come in to do the study and have the same recommendations in it. So, no study.

  • bhaas

    As you all know, Dan has posted the full 1999 Report elsewhere on his blog.

    I have read it and expect that NOTHING will come of it. The only people with the authority and clout to make the needed changes are our elected representatives on the BOS. I do not believe they will be collectively moved to take the necessary action.

    I am hoping that new faces appear as elections come up so we have the opportunity to change the face of Spotsylvania government.

  • http://MAVRICKinc7@msn.com Martin (Marty) Work

    Let’s chang the culture first

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