Saturday, February 12, 2011

House fire a reminder that fire & rescue vehicles need to be able to access property

Shenandoah Valley firefighters sometimes have to go the extra mile just to reach a fire, something that occurred this week when rescue personnel responded to a chimney fire in a remote area on the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Waynesboro.

Reporter Chase Purdy with the Waynesboro News Virginian wrote about the challenges faced by firefighters and their equipment while responding to the remote site on Thursday:
Four Dooms firefighters suffered minor injuries Thursday responding to an Augusta County house fire, authorities said.

Dooms Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Fisher said problems started when firefighters got to the private road leading to the two-story house in the 100 block of Rip Rap Road.

“It was a nightmare because of road conditions,” Fisher said. “It was rutted and full of boulders.”

Authorities said the driveway, covered in ice and snow, was riddled with gaps and holes left from last winter.
A fire truck had to be towed after it hit a boulder in the driveway, causing the engine to be pushed into the drive shaft. That truck is out of commission until repairs can be made. The house, valued at $36,000, sustained approximately $20,000 in damage.

A similar situation occurred a year ago when fire trucks had extreme difficulty navigating a steep, curvy driveway in snowy conditions. The February 2010 fire was also a chimney fire that left the $276,000 house, located in southern Augusta County, gutted and a family homeless. The News Virginian also covered that fire:
Slick snow made a curvy rural driveway impassable to fire trucks in Greenville on Tuesday afternoon, leaving firefighters without water as flames ripped through a family home.
Fire crews from Middlebrook, Stuarts Draft and Raphine, meanwhile, struggled with the snow-covered twists in the steep driveway.
Fire trucks from Middlebrook and Raphine became stuck in snow as rescuers called for reinforcements in the form of backhoes, plows and the Virginia National Guard.

Flames shot from the 2,000-square-foot home and a tower of ever-blacker smoke rose high above the trees.

Firefighters at the house could do little more than watch. Those on the driveway took up shovels and worked with three backhoes to free the trucks that had become stuck — they did not reach the home for more than an hour.
This week's fire further emphasized that access for emergency vehicles is definitely something to consider when buying a house.

Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon

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