Incident Report: Problem-solving at Chesterfield County (VA) fire

Story and photos by Becky Robinette Wright

Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS members were dispatched at 1030 hours on March 12, 2007, for a possible structure fire in a multifamily dwelling at Falling Creek Apartment complex, 2100 Marina Drive.

Five engines were dispatched to the scene; four were Chesterfield crews and the fifth was a mutual aid dispatch staffed by Federal firefighters from the Defense Supply Center Richmond (DSCR). Two aerial ladder trucks, one medic unit, the tactical safety officer, and the battalion one chief from Chesterfield also responded.

First crews on the scene reported light smoke showing. Residents were immediately evacuated.

Firefighters laid a five-inch supply line from a nearby hydrant and stretched multiple handlines.

Firefighters entered the dwelling and discovered fire extension into the walls. Crews also learned that the fire had extended to the space between the interior and exterior brick wall. Firefighters had to open up the interior walls and tear down an outside wall to completely extinguish smoldering materials.

Pulling down the outside brick wall required hand tools to break up the brickwork. Firefighters hauled bricks and fallen debris from the site to another location. The site required extensive overhaul because of the fire spreading within the walls.

Workers had been welding in the apartment before the fire broke out. The apartment of origin was the most heavily damaged. The fire was ruled accidental, started by a worker’s welding torch in the apartment. Red Cross assisted the displaced residents.

Crews from Bensley, Centralia, Manchester, Dutch Gap, Dale, Chester and DSCR took part in the operations.

LESSONS LEARNED


  • Dispatching resources early provided the additional personnel and specialized equipment needed.

  • Using mutual aid dispatch is a benefit in numerous ways, providing additional apparatus and personnel, allowing for crew rotation.

  • Previous training sessions enabled firefighters to quickly realize that the fire had spread between the walls.

  • Firefighters reaped benefits from previous fitness training when called on to perform hand labor in tearing down walls.

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