Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

RSS feed of this blog opines on Feb. 5 fatal fire response

A well-established and respected website called has opined on the fatal Feb. 5 fire and the steps Spotsylvania County is taking to improve its combined fire and rescue system.

The writer says more lives are at risk if change is not enacted quickly.


That’s a scary scenario–that such problems exist in departments around the country. Maybe Spotsylvania County is going to set the stage for a new form of accountability for combined systems and create a system that is envied and copied by other systems.

The writer isn’t sugar-coating his remarks. He has harsh words for the firefighters at the scene of the Feb. 5 fire who did not follow orders and were freelancing.

Brotherhood? I got your Brother & Sisterhood right here. DO as ordered and trained if you want Brotherhood. Sure-”everyone” wants to “get in there” and do whatever they want. But that was then-this is now. Besides, it’s not about what you or we want-it’s all about what COMMAND wants and what the citizens need based upon conditions. Including greatly risking our lives when conditions warrant. Part of the job.

The writer’s own solution to the problems facing the county fire and rescue department? Blue Card.

To most of you, the solution should be obvious. SOP’s, Training, Response with Pre-Needed Resources, On-Scene Disciplined Operations, Training, Enforcement of Disciplined Operations, Training and more Training. And while HANDS ON training is critical, we (our area FD’s) recently took a course that I specifically want to share with you.

Without question, I had to do a little re-learning and open my mind up a bit when taking this course, but I will be honest with you-if this training is conducted by and for your FD, and all those who respond to your fires take this training with you-and follow it, virtually NONE of the above issues will occur. I am talking about what is becoming known as BLUE CARD FIRE COMMAND TRAINING program.

You can read the entire article here.


  • bhaas

    Interesting web site Dan.

    As I perused it I was struck with the thought that firefighting was very similar to military combat. The enemy is the fire and that enemy can kill you and innocent civilians as well.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    It’s really one in the same and just as vulnerable to “friendly fire” as it is from a frontal assualt

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    “free lancing” is a polite phrase for not following orders. I suspect that “free lancing” is not a problem for paid fire fighters because if you do it , you could lose your job.

    But the impression I get both with the Hill death and other reading is that “freelancing” is a problem with some volunteer groups.

    Is it?

    The vols make a big deal of saying that they have the same certifications, same training, same gear, etc but certainly in the Hill case, it did not sound like there was a well functioning command structure.

    So how do Volunteers deal with “freelancing”? Is the term defined in a personnel manual and sanctions against those who don’t follow orders?

  • SteveThomas

    Larry- it could be that… Or it could be simply not checking in for orders, which was what I gathered was the case on Spotswood Furnace Rd. The essence of command is that no one acts without orders from command; and action apart from that is “freelancing”.

    This appeared to be a case of inexperienced guys not waiting for orders. And yes, it also happens to pros (almost anything that vols undergo, also happens with pros too. This is why you hear leaders in both halves say that professionalism has nothing to do with collecting a paycheck).

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Thought we had defined “freelancing” blogs ago. How do we handle “it COULD be that”, or “This APPEARED to be a case of INEXPERIENCED guy NOT waiting for ORDERS?

    Just who showed up at the February 5, 2010 fire and who collected a pay check for being less than professional?

    What part of the County’s independent review of this incident are we supposed to regard as fiction, half truths or just another bad day at work, fighting fires?

    How many more caveats and conditions are WE to get back from someones version of “professional” when even the professionals and volunteers can’t come together over something as simple as protecting citizens from themselves.

    If there is no transparency or accountability in our government ranks, how do WE measure up as anything more than broiled hamburger? And YES, everyone of us can lean back with the notion that February 5, 2010, will never happen to you or me.

    I don’t think we’re about to run out of questions, but what is the price WE have to pay to get our elected leaders to ante up what they claim to be in our best interest…10 years ago?

  • Sam

    Freelancing happens everywhere. Period. It knows no salary.

    Volunteers take a bad rap on that issue, it’s not true. Yes (i feel) there is definate accountability issues between the two services (Paid and Volunteer) but no a career firefighter would not be ‘terminated’ for freelancing… disciplined (repremanded)yes, but not terminated. It’s the fact that no one is certain what the punishment is for a volunteer.

    Freelancing could be a minor thing like helping someone grab a ladder or straighten a hose out, is it so terrible if someone reaches down to assist. The depth of the involvement is key.
    That’s not condoning it, what-so-ever. There are just so many things comin’ at ya quick on the fireground, and most everyone needs help with something or other. Again not condoning it, just explaining.
    What it takes is a strong unit leader to ensure he has a disciplined crew. And to further this, if the unit officer starts to freelance, his/her whole crew will do the same. And if one crew is doing it you’re certain to have another doing it.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    my understanding is as you describe – that there are many different kinds of variances from simple momentary diversions to folks off on their own activities but my question/point was that if a career firefighter engages in particularly egregious violations multiple times that the consequences might ultimately involve his performance rating and his job even – because a person with that kind of reputation is not one that can be depended on especially in serious situations that require a high level of coordination and discipline.

    I recognize that fire scenes are not always neat and tidy affairs that come off like clockwork but I can also see if there is systemic freelancing occurring that the performance of the team itself can be undermined / degraded.

    I’ve been involved in a couple of circumstances that I will not be specific about but it involved a search & rescue that involved multiple jurisdictions and I was not impressed at all with the “coordination” that was NOT occurring and it struck me as one huge, costly – and ineffective effort because they had numerous teams – and individuals not coordinating with the established incident commander.

    Hell they were not even operating on the same radio frequencies (on purpose) – which astounded me until I saw in national disasters that the same problem is apparently systemic in multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional efforts.

    I’m not being critical here just to be critical but to acknowledge that many incidents that are not your typical ones can introduce elements that were not anticipated and then adherence to the SOPs are the way to keep the scene from become a chaotic affair.

    But I can also see if SOPs are not followed and/or freelancing is occurring that the incident commander can effectively lose control.

    Yes -you need strong leadership but even the military has heavy duty sanctions for not following orders because you don’t want your team to be only effective when it has “strong” leadership. You want them to be effective even when you “only” have “competent” leadership also.

    All of this goes back to just how disciplined your team is and it is my view that when your job depends on you doing what you are told that it makes a difference – especially in cases where a career person has developed a pattern over multiple incidents of persistently not following direction.

    I think we all know that no team can be effective in the “team” is a bunch of individuals all doing their own thing and any/all teams ability to function can be undermined by even one person who cannot be depended on.

    In short – it’s complex and not simple issue but it is terribly vital because all the training, all the equipment, and even “strong” leadership can all be undone – and when it is undone – the consequences can be also terrible.

    (and I’m NOT drawing any parallels to any specific incident here… just a general observation).

  • Sam

    In your first paragraph you are absolutely correct. A career firefighter is always held to a ‘progressive discipline’ standard. (i.e. the punishment must fit the crime, and will become increasingly worse if the the behavior is not corrected) But that’s a good thing, all of it.

    It may seem anti-volunteer (so be it) but no one has any idea at what level of behavior correction is issued amongst the volunteers, nor is it transparent because they are private incorporations. At best, I have seen volunteer members ‘suspended from riding (responding to calls) for a month maybe more (can’t remember).
    So in essence, what can ya do?!?!? Take away their hobby for a bit. And I am sorry to call it that, because many of them are truely Volunteer Professionals. But the career firefighter has much more at stake perhaps; losing their mortgage, being able to provide for their family etc etc.

    I personally think it is a leadership issue. One of my guys know what I tollerate and won’t tollerate. And I must stay disciplined and with my assignment regardless of how exciting or not it is. And they know that.
    Steve probably hit on it best , it is ultimately the Incident commander Tony Dennis that is responsible for the behaviors on Spotswood Furnace Rd. on February 5. But, NO- February 5 was not the time for Tony Dennis to correct the haphazard Freelancing that was going on. That should have done prior to February 5. .Another words CVFRD should have had more discipline crew training and focus. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Since the problems with FIRE/RESCUE/EMS are really “SYSTEMIC”, and all we’re doing is cutting down weeds , which will necessarily GROW BACK AGAIN, what have we accomplished by focusing on what’s what in Fire and Rescue CIRCLES, when the problem remains systemic?

    What role do our elected officials have in keeping the weeds, same set cultures, alive…for the past 11 years? Who do we hold accountable for allowing this problem and ROOT STRUCTURE to grow, UNCHECKED for so long?

    Is this where we stop making excuses for one another and start asking why we were the last to know, much along the same lines are the VRE Master Agreement was adopted by Spotsdylvania County in 2009?

    If we want our government to be transparent and accountable, you’re going to have to do better than this. If you are so easily distracted by soundbite mentalities and communications, without the details, you’ll be standing in the same place you started from in 1999. And WHO made it possible and so easy to sell? I have every reason to believe WE were sold what we thought to be in our best interest, while we were asleep and wouldn’t even know the difference even if were served up under our very noses.

    So, if you want to embrace a “culture” that’s better defined, and has purpose, may I suggest you take a look at how your garden is growing. A little “ROUND-UP can kill the root of anything that poses a treat to what you have planted in your garden. But, what weeds we kill will come back a YEAR or so later when your planting or harvest meet the road again. It’s about all things living. What goes around eventually comes around.

  • Sam

    Marty, I agree with you. There are quite a few people (like you) that follow Dans’ Blog that really have some great ideas and knowledge. The simple fact that you’re asking questions is fantastic. You and I agree you are entitled to answers.
    Mind you I have asked questions to the CVFRD PIO Kevin Dillard and he/they remains silent and less than forecoming. Now don’t tell me they don’t see or haven’t heard of Dans’ Blog. I wonder how the CVFRD would mind if they requested information from Virginia Fire Programs and they were ignored.
    I caution you, your feeling is a little strong, though probably accurate. I really think Spotsylvania is acustomed to getting away with piss-poor government and this is the way they choose to handle this. It’s not an election year and it can be handled slowly. Isn’t that a damn shame though, but it’s the flaw with democracy, it’s just a little more magnified in Spotsylvania.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Sorry SAM, but appeasement is not something I take to as much as others would like. I prefer facts at the end of the day, so I can make an informed decision, along the same lines as your inquiry of CVRFD PIO Kevin Dillard and got back ZIP.

    For the record my “FEELINGS” have nothing to do with anything or my postured position. Go emotional and you’ll soon realize you’re sitting in the back of the bus, with a WISH LIST in hand, that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, unless of course SECOND BEST works for you better than negotiating an informed resolve with all the facts.

    If you can’t make your way to the facts, because government is holding on to them and refuse to release, how credible can anyone be on this blog or any other blog when they start out saying, “I don’t really know, but here’s my take on what we are allowed to understand by those who prefer that we know nothing.

    Sam, what facts do you, or Larryg, Mr.Bill or Mr. Silly have on hand from Spotsylvania County’s business ethics or best business practices, other than referral web sites, bean counter statistics and half of a story? When you look in the mirror, who do you see? It’s you, but only from one perspective; the FRONT SIDE.

    The other side requires the use of three mirrors to see what’s in back of you and translates to the whole story. But you actually have to turn around to see the other side. Or, we can look at multiple mirrors, looking at a single image, from the stand point you’re only allowed to see one side and multipe images of youself.

    Know anything about smoke and mirrors. That’s about all you will ever be allowed to see. Everything else is speculation, UNLESS you ask the good question and get an informed answer back.

    Check out the questions I’ve asked in the past and still don’t have answers to. It’s considered rumor, but no one has come back to me and tell me I’m wrong and why I’m wrong.

    You, like myself are being called on to guess, speculate and worst of all, ASSUME everthing is OK, when it’s not.

    I can appreciate the County not wanting to answer our questions in lieu of litigious thoughts being passed around, but with 10 years of doing it their way, or not at all, simply isn’t going to float, except in the minds of those in charge of damage control.

    Last year was FIRE/RESCUE/EMS’s golden oportunity to do the right thing and religated it to a 3-2 vote and business as usual.

    If you are comparing apples (Spotsy) to oranges (other jurisdictions) we will only sink in the weight of our own cement
    and join the rest of the Region in the levels of mediocrity that surround the borders of Spotsylvania County.

    Second best is OK, except, where do you go from there; up or down. I’ve already made my bet. It’s time to call or fold the cards you dealt to yourself.

    While my FEELINGS may appear to you and others as a bit strong, let me recite, chapter and verse, where I’ve been for the last 15 years and what silence produces in the wake of the truth, like it or not.

    See you on the flip side.

  • Sam

    Ok Marty,
    How does it feel to want to take on the local government?
    And where do you start?
    You know it’s door upon door, upon meeting after meeting and then what?. You think a Supervisor who’s spouse is a volunteer is going to support you?.
    You think either of the two civil war generals will vote in your favor?

    Usually the only resolve one has is in November. And they all know that.
    Keeping this in the media is the only way I know right now.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    SAM: since you are still the stranger how would you have me answer your question?

    If a Supervisor’s wife is a volunteer why wouldn’t she support the idea that change is need? I’m not expecting her or any member of the BOS to support me. THEY should be supporting the needs of Spotsylvania County citizens.

    The only thing I have in common with Lee or Grant is that my birth date is the same as Robert E.Lee. I’m not divided by the lines that were drawn in the sand 150 years ago. North and South is something I measure with the equater in the middle.

    Any emotions or feelings I have are confined to FAMILY. Everything else is just business. I got most of my son back from Desert Storm. The stories I could tell. Just got my grandson back from Afghanistan. So, how happy and emotional do you think I am at this moment?

    Back to business.

    Taking on local government, or any government is measured by “showing up.” If you don’t show then you’ll never know. WAITING for something to happen is tanatmount to a snooze alarm and nothing more. Standing out here in the blogging world is not intended to get you or anyone else closer to the truth, which ever truth you decide to ACCEPT, ie…”more doors…more meetings” serve as one of the best excuses we launch when we run into a wall that we seemingly start to convince ourselves has no way around. It’s really just simple math and one of a number of war strategies. Your worst enemy is yourself. That’s why most people SETTLE for not knowing and on many occasions don’t want to know. They prefer to be surprised, which is the best excuse ever invented by man and governments to cover their tracks. It’s a primary element of risk management and damage control

    Hunting to hounds is another blood sport, and using the perverbial “red herring” is another tool to throw you off the scent.

    The only thing I bring to the table is a cognitive communication disorder. Zig-Zag thinking. It works great in dealing with the abstract and memory and it all gets recorded.

    Since I don’t communicate well verbally, I’m caused to write down my words and presentations with the understand government only allows you 3 minutes at the podium.

    Ask Dan Telvock about his coverage of an effort the BOS took in Sept. 2007 to change their by-laws so I wouldn’t be able make presentations to the BOS except every 6 months. Failing that, go to the library and have them provide you with the televised version of the meeting. I was there, but have no idea whether a SAM showed up or not. If I’m not mistaken Dan started his blog in 2007. He’s only now starting to deal with Spotsylvanian history and connecting the dots. You need to do the same.

    Your words: “How does it FEEL to WANT TO take on the local government?

    ANSWER: I’m just here listening, without feeling anything and asking questions. Been doing this for my entire working life.

    Can you imagine sitting in a room with the very best liars in attendance, responding to questions, under oath. You know that old saying: never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. So, I get to ask questions if only to see the sweat coming off of a liars brow, or better still, watch them leave the room for want of an answer to the question. When I don’t get an answer, silence becomes the answer to the question that I already know the answer to. Make sense? I ask the question, they get red in the face and bolt for the door in a huff and reciting I’m the problem for even asking the question.

    I ask questions. Answer it anyway you want. I don’t really care whether it’s a lie or not.

    When I asked whether there is a “FOCUS GROUP”, without minutes, conducting business in the County’s stead and behind closed doors, NO ONE stood up to answer my question, even the FLS. I have the minutes of their past meeting and who attended these meetings and referenced by the Spotsylvania County Planning Commission on more than one occasion. No member of the public or press were identified as ever having attended, much less participate in these secret meetings. If that were the case, WE would have a much better idea who really governs the County.

    SAM, the only way to solve mysteries is with knowing the facts. You ain’t got facts, you shouldn’t be allowed to throw the dice and advance around the board.

    When I get to know you better, and have a better idea who you are, and where you are posted in County business, I’m sure we’ll have occasion to speak futher about any number of issues, including this one. Until then, I’ll just keep asking questions.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    I have questions about a number of issues but will restrict them to two right now.

    The first is how does Spotsylvania Government compare to other governments in terms of transparency and accountability?

    Is it a particularly egregious example of bad practices ?

    My second question is this. There are dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of meetings held in Spotsylvania ( in fact all county/city governments) that do not have minutes available as far as I know.

    Is there a law or regulation that requires local government to document each and every meeting in terms of attendees and minutes?

    I would think if there were – that there would be some examples of counties with “best practices” where they have a link to all meetings held and folks could search through them to find out what the meetings were about, who attended and the minutes.

    For instance, I’m quite sure the County Administrator probably attends multiple meetings every day on a wide variety of topics to include some standing committees…and ad hoc committees.

    Are we to expect, as part of good government that we should see (if we want) every meeting and the minutes of that meeting that the County Administrator attends?

    I’m just trying to understand what we advocating for here.

  • dtelvock

    Larry, my memory is telling me that county officials mentioned recently a study of transparent governments of Virginia and Spotsylvania scored pretty well. The study won’t show up at this site though:

    The county might have copies of it.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    DAN: all I could find was the The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public policy who’s interests are about REFORM of local and State Governments. Are you prepared to answer my question? If not, I don’t see where web hopping it going to bring us any closer to the truth than we are at this moment.

    LARRY: If I’m not mistaken YOU are one who has been challenging local government for transparency and accountability. I just ask questions, very specific ones, that I already have the answer to. Would you like to contribute to the answers or just mirror more of your distractions?

    We’ve been over this on many occassions prior to this. What part of my inquiry didn’t you understand? And, how is it YOU can’t answer my questions? Simply said, you can’t.

    Who and what would you like to compare with Spotsylvania County’s government? Apples to apples, or apples to oranges?
    And, what would any difference between another jurisdiction and Spotsy serve the public in understanding the processes and persuations of their elected officials, and how their best business practices impact the citizens of Spotsylvania County on a daily basis?

    You apparently only wish to speculate and cover what the public should know about their government. And, by the way, which government were you referrng to in your #14? How do YOU define “egregious” and what role does it play in any governmental process?

    In lieu of my repeated questions, without answers, what does the number of meetings the County Administrator attends weekly, monthly or yearly have to do with a singular question, about the existence of a County “FOCUS GROUP” without minutes? I know for a FACT I asked Wanda Parrish if I could be admitted to these meetings as a spectator, and was turned down flat on the two occassions I asked, and came with the understanding that not even the press could gain admission to these meetings, even though Dan Telvock represents the voice of Spotsylvania government. He’s not allowed attendance, so why doesn’t he tell us? YOU can take that up with him and the FLS. If they don’t have answers, what are we to believe any more?

    Next time you use “as far as I know” at the end of a sentence, you might want to consider the credibility and relevance of what you are attempting sell, but can’t pull it off. If you and SAM want to play that “trust card” again, make sure you add something more to the ingredients than “human nature.”

    LARRY: do you have another question or ingredient you want to add to this recipe of sour pork?

  • Sam

    Sarcasm in general doesn’t type well, I appologize.
    Let you in on a little secret:

    Hap Connors wife is a member of Chancellor Rescue. Why wouldn’t they want to change?. Ummm i dunno… because it’d difficult, ummmm…oh oh I know, No one likes change, yeah thats it, and they like doing things the way they always have.

    Ok and lastly, The civil war generals in my sarcastic quip I was refering to are : TC Waddy, and Emmitt Marshall. Marty don’t be so paranoid, I’m not out to get you or quell what you are saying, you have a right to express yourself (thanks be to Dan Telvock)

  • Sam

    Sarcasm in general doesn’t type well, I appologize.
    Let you in on a little secret;

    Hap Connors wife is a member of Chancellor Rescue. Why wouldn’t they want to change?. Ummm i dunno… because it’d difficult, ummmm…oh oh I know, No one likes change, yeah thats it, and they like doing things the way they always have.

    Ok and lastly, The civil war generals in my sarcastic quip I was refering to are : TC Waddy, and Emmitt Marshall. Marty don’t be so paranoid, I’m not out to get you or quell what you are saying, you have a right to express yourself (thanks be to Dan Telvock)

  • Sam

    Sorry for the double post. Dan feel free to edit that!.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    SAM: I speak to the written page and never ASSUME what you or anyone else was trying to say and didn’t. That’s why I come off as up-front, strong, dissappointing and abrupt.

    Those who don’t want to listen to what I’m saying prefer to use labels to fend off knowing what it is I’ve said for “paranoia, conspiracy theories, and numerous other labels, in order to distract the reader or the audience from taking notice of what is said, for an agenda or motive that really has nothing to do with understand what has been said. It’s the politics of labels that distract us from knowing or understanding the logic of what is being said.

    You can take this strategy back 3000 years and you’ll not find a single difference between then and how this strategy is used today.

    Next time around you might want to label me as a “well trained skeptic”, instead of paranoid. Don’t know how you’re going to fit that in a sentence, but I’ll leave that up to you.

    Skepticism, not paranoia, is why I ask questions. Been doing this for years and it has paid off 99% of the time, and I never claimed I was even close to being perfect, or thought I knew everything. I’m not and I don’t.

    Hap Connors’ wife being a member of Chansellor Rescue is a well established fact. Why does that have anything to do with CHANGE? They’re just part of a landscape and network
    that runs things any way they wish. How they wish to use their affiliation is really up to them and how they might reasonably persuade others to join their vision, whether it be good, bad or ugly.

    Your claim that you are not out to get me is a well documented war strategy heard round the world. I still trust everyone, unless given cause to conclude otherwise.

    TC and Marshall are the dynamic duo who rule rural America. They should never be underestimated. Why. Because you have absolutely no idea who their friends are and how they wish to defend and coordinate the power of the fiefdoms they control and move about as puppets for hire. When TC gets his dirt roads covered in asphalt and Marshall get his development aspirations for HIS DISTRICT
    to move forward, I don’t see anyone qualified to take over their territory, until every inch of farm land is filled up with high density populations and the housing to go along with it. But, what do I know?

  • bhaas

    Ms. Connors being a member of Chancellor Rescue comes as a bit of a surprise to me. I would expect any BOS member to note such a situation when certain votes concerning the Volunteers were before the BOS. I am not saying he ought to recuse, but clarification for the record would seem to this observer to be the prudent thing to do.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Supv Connors has more conflicts of interest than you could possibly imagine. Maybe one day he’ll sit down with us and detail how he works the FAMPO agendas from his seat on the BOS. But then, the same could be said of SUPVs Skinner, Logan, Pitts , Doug Barnes, County Administrator, County Attorney Strohman, Planning Dept, Planning Commission, members of Stafford County BOS and the Fredericksburg Town Counsil.

    Any questions? Look it up. It’s all a matter of public record. The problem comes when you try to connect the dots between one good old boy and another.

  • Sam

    The only conflict I see with his wife serving as a volunteer member could arrise when it (something…anything)is not in the best interest of the citizens and and accountability is called to question. My experience is ;Human nature is to be self serving/saving and less than forthcoming.
    Could that happen? Sure.
    Has it happened? Who knows?
    Should we thank them (the Connors) as stewards of the community- YES, absolutely. they both obviously give to the community ten fold.

  • bhaas

    You are correct Sam….however, the safe side of that equation, for any public servant, is to announce the potentially conflicting situation, perhaps periodically. I think it is done every day and, in fact, Mr. Connors may have done so at some time in the past. I simply have never heard him express it.

    I also agree that the Connors are good stewards of the community; I, however, do not have to agree with every deed of all good stewards.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    We humans dance to our DNA every day. So, when the nature of man is the final reasoning for all things good, without question, then politics rule and reason is religated to another election bid.

    Can we count on you guys to vote for Connors next time he’s up for election? Hope so. Sucking up should be the sole reason for any of US to make an uninformed decision about the role of government and what little we have to do with its transparency and accountability.

  • bhaas

    Not my district Marty…He is someone else’s problem.