Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Firefighters battle blaze, high temps

Spotsylvania County firefighters douse a smoldering home during a heatwave.

I was procrastinating on a story and scrolling through the endless tweets about the heat when I learned that Spotsylvania County firefighters were at the scene of a house fire in the western part of the county. Immediately, my curiosity was piqued. When experts were telling everyone to stay inside–and to bring their pets with them, how can you stay safe while putting out a fire?

The owner of this home and the Spotsylvania firefighters were gracious enough to let me see. It turns out there are many precautions. I witnessed them as I pulled up to the scene. First, many of the response vehicles had their hoods up. At first, I worried that there was an epidemic of overheated vehicles. But this is a preventative measure. Next, I saw a cooling station, where misting fans, coolers and wet washclothes waited. Firefighters rotated in and out of this station at regular intervals, to make sure they didn’t suffer heatstroke. And then, as I got closer to the home, I noticed some turnout gear in the grass. Firefighters were in their boots, pants and helmets. But the rest of the turnout gear was on the side. Spotsylvania County Fire Rescue and Emergency Management Deputy Chief Monty Willaford explained that once the fire was contained, and firefighters were on the perimeter of the home, they could forego parts of the turnout gear, which weighs more than 50 pounds.

Medic Denise Condetti helps firefighter Chip Blakeley at the cooling station set up to prevent heat stroke.

Firefighter Chris Pitts rehydrates while taking a break from fighting fires.

Because fighting fires in extreme temperatures is so dangerous, many responders were on scene. The crew included both career and volunteer firefighters.

Being on scene definitely made me feel a little less like whining about the heat. And a little more grateful for a job where heading out to the fire was optional.

The responders included both career and volunteer firefighters. Some volunteer crews started two hours early to help supply more manpower so firefighters could rotate through the cooling station more often.