Story by Becky Robinette Wright
Photos by Rob Tankard
On March 21, 2007, at 2330 hours, Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS received a call advising of a possible structure fire. The 911 caller said flames and smoke were coming through the roof of a motel at 2201 Indian Hills Road.
Four engines, two aerial ladder trucks, the Battalion 1 chief, the Battalion 2 chief, and the tactical safety officer were initially dispatched. Engine 14 was the first on-scene and verified a one-story motel with fire visible through the roof.
Another engine and Company 6 were subsequently dispatched. The mobile command post was used as a base unit.
The hotel consisted of 17 units containing more than 20 occupants. One occupant had been alerted by a smoke detector and evacuated; two others heard the sounds of fire and saw flames. The evacuating occupants began yelling and knocking on doors to alert other occupants.
Firefighters encountered two other similar structures and multiple vehicles as exposures.
Firefighters performed a defensive exterior attack using multiple handlines and tower aerial ladder master streams, flowing 900 gpm. The fire was declared under control at 0133 hours on March 22.
No injuries were reported. All 17 motel units were destroyed. The Red Cross assisted the displaced occupants, who were housed in another portion of the motel complex.
The Chesterfield Fire Marshal's investigation ruled the fire accidental, caused by a wall heater.
- Smoke detectors are invaluable for saving lives. The early warning to the motel residents contributed to a quick evacuation during a fast-moving, intense fire.
- The fire was no match for the intense water flow from precisely directed aerial ladder master streams and a well-trained crew, which benefited from regular training exercises.
- Dispatching resources early saves time and provides extra personnel and specialized equipment.
- The mobile command center provided a high-tech vantage point with phones, computers, and other specialized resources for base unit.
- The tactical safety officer is a valuable resource for personnel safety and assisting the battalion chiefs.