New firefighting technique developed in Wytheville, Va?

I’ve heard a lot of troubling news out of Wytheville, Va lately. The latest reports  just shine more light on how bad the situation in Wythe County, Va really is.

You may remember back in August 2012 when I posted about the County (Wythe) closing the doors of the Speedwell Volunteer Fire Department. They cited  “a lack of formal training” as just one of the reasons for the closure.

I later learned that they also had some trouble surrounding the former Speedwell Chief, Michael Hale; who had been convicted of felony embezzlement.

Read those previous articles HERE and HERE

Apparently, the County’s Chief Officer problem is not isolated to Speedwell.

In less than a week, the Wytheville Fire Department has had 2 house fires less than 4 miles apart in the Crockett’s Cove section of the County. Both homes were a total loss … burnt to the ground. The incidents happened just 5.8 miles from their station.

A lot of the reports I’m getting seem to point to poor leadership / management within the Department. In my opinion, some of the stories even border negligence.

Before I go further, let me say that I attempted to contact many of the parties involved. I even requested a transcript of the latest incident from the Counties E911 director, Mr Davidson. I explained that I was working on a story surrounding these incidents and wanted to assure the information I have is as accurate as possible. I have yet to receive a reply from any of the people / agencies I contacted.

The latest fire occurred at 214 Crockett’s Cove Road on Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 2:15 pm (5.8 miles from the Wytheville Fire Department).

The home was a “TOTAL LOSS” with damages estimated at $75,000.

One of the sad things surrounding this incident is that they (the Wytheville Fire Department) are almost bragging about it!

The Chief, Ronnie King ??? He’s taking FULL CREDIT.

A local paper, SW Va Today; even used the headline  “Firefighters try out new technique in fire“.

“King, who thought of the idea, said he had never studied the technique in all of his years as a firefighter. I’d never heard of such a thing in all my hours of training, and I’ve had thousands and thousands of hours of training,” he said. “We plan on using it again.”

Chief King boasts 24 years in Fire / EMS. Read his Firefighter Nation Profile HERE

My first question is why Chief King didn’t name or title this new, revolutionary technique? He could have easily dubbed it something simple … maybe the “watch us let your house burn down technique”.

You see, instead of fighting the fire, which started in the living room and was “room and content” upon arrival; King directed his members to go straight to salvage operations.

Yes … SALVAGE. I don’t know how Chief King never learned that term in his “thousands and thousands of hours of training”. It’s such a simple term .. SALVAGE.

They cut a hole in an exterior wall on the opposite side of the home from the room of origin. They then formed a human chain to pass out firearms, clothing and even an X-Box. (click on the picture to enlarge it and you’ll see the members operating at the “hole”)

I need to get on the phone to Bobby Halton, Ray McCormick and a few other Brothers because apparently we’re going to have to change the technique of VES (Vent Enter Search) to Vent Enter Salvage.

Full story from SW Va Today HERE

When the Chief finally decided to try the technique the rest of American Firefighters use, putting water on the fire; he pulled small diameter hoses, attempted an exterior attack and quickly ran out of water…. IMAGINE THAT.

It’s my understanding that the Chief (Department) has a strict policy on interior firefighting. It’s very seldom attempted and then only at the discretion and orders of the Chief. The same policy applies to calling for mutual aid or additional resources such as a TANKER (Reports are that it was 45 minutes into the incident before mutual aid tankers were requested).

Egos, power struggles and a lack of training all seem to be prominent issues within the Wytheville Fire Department. The “good ol boy” system at work again as the Chief is elected by the members.

Here are some questions for the Chief …. Why did you not enter the house and attempt to extinguish the fire? Why did you not enter to “search”?

His reply is going to be that it was more than “room and content” upon arrival (it wasn’t). That the fire was too heavily involved.

Why then did you enter for salvage operations? Why did the members performing this “new technique” not have on proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus)?

What if the room you opened up was the bathroom? What would you have salvaged then? Did you know it was a bedroom in advance? Did you use a chain saw or rotary saw? Was the power company on scene, did you pull the meter or cut cut through the live wires?

Why waste water on a pile of rubble? If you let the house burn down, why not just let it burn itself out (note the small diameter hose line still in use in the picture above left)?

Did your members run out of pizza? Yea … PIZZA. Apparently, the Wytheville Fire Department has a VERY supportive Auxiliary. Several pizzas were delivered to the scene and consumed while the home continued to burn. Yea .. a house burning party in celebration of Chief King’s new X-box saving technique and it all happened in front of the residents!

Now, I’m all for salvage operations and firefighter rehab but COME ON…. pizza! Salvage is a vital part of our job but the best way to perform salvage is to extinguish the fire!  Maybe then, these residents would have a TV to play their X-box on. Maybe they would have a home to put it in?

Apparently, Chief King is not a quick learner because he faced similar problems on the fire at 193 Chase Lane just a few days earlier on November 12th.

Once again, members ran out of water and there was a delay in requesting mutual aid tankers.

The use of small diameter hose lines was also reported.

The fire was said to have started “in the chimney” and the results were a total loss with damages estimated at over $70,000.

Smoke detectors alerted the residents of this home who all were able to escape without injury.

Chief King said “They are fortunate to be alive”.

That’s one thing he’s said that I’ll agree with.

Read the fully story HERE

The Wytheville Fire Department protects approx. 13,400 residents.

They cover a response area of 91.14 square miles.

Their claim an average response time of 3-7 minutes to their approximately 200 calls per year.

The Town of Wytheville has an ISO rating of 6 while the County’s rating is 9.


Here are some of the members giving a “thumbs up” at the Chase Lane fire. I guess they’re thankful to be alive.

Note the clean dry gear, the lack of SCBA and the small diameter hose line.

We can only hope Wythe County Administrators get a quick handle on this situation before there is a LODD (Line Of Duty Death) or the loss of civilians.

They seemed to have handled their Felon problem as well as the Speedwell issues rather swiftly. I believe that some of the Council members are actually volunteers themselves (hopefully that gives them a better understanding of the severity of these issues). They should at least start by dispatching additional tankers (or more) on all reported structure fires.

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I’ll keep ya updated on the situation as best possible. I hope everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving Holiday and remembered to think about our Brothers and Sisters out there pulling a tour away from their families.

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines

  • steve grubb

    Its called entry guys with all your “training” you should know this one. Way to go cheif king, another property lost, thanks to your new technique.

  • Jennifer

    This article is distasteful and ignorrant! You obviously are not from Wythville, nor do you live there. You really need to do more research before you go writting stuff on the internet, as a matter of fact Cheif King should contact a lawyer and find out if he has grounds for a slander suit, not to mention did you have or do you have permission to repost those pictures? Do you have signed permission from the firefighters you posted pictures of? If not maybe they should as well contact a lawyer. OR let me guess since you obviously think everyone one from Wytheville/Wythe Co. is stupid, you must think they dont have enough sense about them to contact a lawyer. Well as most people you are incorrect. If you dont know who or what you are talking about as people in the south say KEEP YA MOUTH SHUT!! I truly hope the members and Cheif see my post and contact a lawyer before contacting you!

    • RFD

      You can’t even spell CHIEF….so I assume your advice is fairly poor.

    • RFD

      Haha, or WYTHEVILLE!! Jeeeez.

    • FC

      Jennifer, you are not really helping your case any. I can only assume that you are not a FF. There are several things you should probably know. Most states exempt photos of emergency workers on scene from releases. Chief King most certainly does not want to go to court and go on official record stating exactly how his technique was deployed. You should not call people ignorant when your post is fraught with misspellings and an obvious lack of knowledge of fire tactics. Further, there is no need to “school” Captain Wines on how things are in the South, since he is as Southern as it gets and as “country as turnip greens”. Now that being said, I realize my reply will go unheeded and most likely ignored, but what do I know? I am a fire fighter that actually has 1000’s of hours of training, both as an instructor and as a student who has spent countless hours INSIDE burning buildings.

  • Ernie

    I think the biggest problem in the fire service today is that we don’t do honest post mortems of our fires. We don’t sit down and say we screwed this up or we could have done that better. Instead, we sit there and slap each other on the back and say hey guys, the fire went out! All fires burn down to your ability level. The Captain raises a lot of valid points. If the structure was stable enough to pack furniture out of it was stable enough to fight fire. And for the record, I didn’t see one thing he said that was negative toward the firefighters of this department. All criticism rests where it should, with the chief. Heavy lies the crown. If the guys from this department have a rebuttal, put it together. Type it up. Send it to Captain Wines, he’s a fair and honest guy from what I can tell. But it needs to be more than “You weren’t there, so mind your own business”. And yes, I’ve burnt a lot of stuff to the ground. Every foundation I’ve saved was a lesson. And that’s life in a rural department. But my guys have saved a lot too. As for the pictures, they’re public domain once somebody posts them on the internet unless they have a copyright. And if you’re in a public area anyone can take your picture and do with it what they please. Now please, come back and tell me what an idiot I am.

  • Dave

    It’s Chief…..

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  • Jack Bailie

    Willie, it seems interesting that if this Fire Chief has all the qualifications listed on their webpage, you would think he would be roundly embarassed to have his name and the statement “tries new firefighting technique” in the same line. As stated the house was lost and some very strange, none I have ever seen firefighting tactics were being employed. Does the Virginia Fire Marshal’s office no authority to shut these operations down?

    I liken these departments to the analogy of pager goes off and we get to play fireman, I have no doubt they probably have some actual real certified firefighters on board, it would be obvious none of them were on site!! You were bang on about Botecourt and probably this one as well. Keep up the good work trying to let the citizens know, who rely on this group as well as the governing body its time to clean up, yeesh whats next.I’m sure what little they did salvage???? oh but your house sorry maybe next time.

    Always a pleasure Brother. Us real warriors will stick together eh, its our calling. Stay Safe, Chief out.

  • Our duty to the public we serve does not end at the curb of a fire scene. It extends into the media as well. When any of us open our mouths and speak, we are looked upon as trusted experts to those who depend on us. So when this chief officer says he is trying out a “new technique” it has far reaching ramifications. First within the community but it extends into the nation as well, and lastly comes to rest at the feet of the fire service. The issue is, by the time it has reached the fire service, the public has already accepted his (the chiefs) version and believe he has executed a tactic that was in the best interest of his fire fighters and his citizens. It then becomes the responsibility of the fire service to respond and call “BS”. You see, we have a citizenry where we live too, people who depend on us with those same trusting ears. So complain all you want about Capt Wines calling out your chief, your department and their actions but the truth is a lion, you do not have to defend it, just set it free and it will and can defend itself!

  • James Cox

    Seriously, Wytheville Firefighters are defending themselves on the lack of aggressiveness in their “salvage before fire fight”? How can you defend this supposed “new” technique. Maybe you guys need a refresher in Firefighter I and II. Where on this green planet did you learn to salvage people’s items before you engage in firefighting? Where on earth did you learn to do salvage without the proper PPE? Since when is it acceptable to fight fire; after salvage operations; with a small diameter hose? Looking at the pictures, that appears to be a booster line or trash line. When did it become acceptable to go into a fire without acceptable support, like tankers, not on only just one fire but TWO fires. Does your chief realize that at some point an insurance company is NOT going to accept your firefighting tactics let alone your “new” technique? Is it going to take a lawsuit for your department to learn the basics over again?

    No one needs to be in Wytheville or live near there to know how firefighting goes. Two houses destroyed because the Fire Chief and his department do NOT want to function like a fire department should. And who the Hell has pizza delivered for rehab? I guess that would be appropriate seeing how your crews didn’t actually go to fight fire.

    For those of you that defend this department, will you be saying the same thing when they come to your house and do the same thing? Is it okay for you to lose your home because they do NOT want to fight a small fire such as “Room and Contents”? Does the fire department even know what that means? If that is acceptable to you, then you get what you defend.

  • Turp

    Anyone notice that Chief Ron King’s Firefighter Nation profile says he belongs to a combination fire/rescue department and that he is a firefighter/paramedic? I have searched all over and cannot find where he is a paramedic. I surely hope he doesn’t present himself as such to the public. I can only imagine how he would save someone’s life.

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  • Paddy Boy

    This is disturbing. Why in the world are you firemen? Did you “join up” to do the job or just to dress up and drive around with red lights? From the sounds of this story, there is some major good ole boy crap going on. Power struggle amongst the ranks? I’d lay money on it. The old broken record of the majority of rural vol. departments has a familiar tune every time it is played. It screeches and pops with the same bad tune. The people that you are “protecting” don’t know who is playing the music, and they probably can’t hear the words, but they will and soon then they will tire of it. You have thousands of hours of traning? Where did you learn these things from? Every new idea that comes along in the fire service is at first viewed as “radical” until it is accepted among the ranks, but this, this is ridiculous. It defeats the science of it. Do you allow every fire to do the same, and do you’re tactics repeat themselves? If so, then I pity the citizens of your area for they are royally screwed. Interior firefighting is a high stress job that requires physical stamina and strength, a sharp mind, keen senses and at least a basic knowledge of the job and someone correctly trained and seasoned to lead the company. I understand that there are departments across the country that have willing individuals who are dedicated but cannot physically participate in interior, so they do the absolute best that they can, and God bless them for it. But for a group of “highly trained” individuals who, from photos, appear to be in decent shape and not in dotage, to just sit around, eat pizza and “fight” fire in REVERSE, that is absurd. Maybe it’s time to reconsider your stance and look for an out before you get burned because quite frankly, this ain’t working for ya. Just the thoughts of a B.D.T.

  • Dale Shord

    “…never studied the technique in all of his years as a firefighter. I’d never heard of such a thing in all my hours of training, and I’ve had thousands and thousands of hours of training,”. Did he ever wonder why, “…he’s never heard of such a thing?”
    Because it is WRONG. I’m all for the surround and drown on a derelict, vacant structure. However, that was not the case. Regardless, you still need water for that. If i am wrong in my statements, please be sure to advise. But if you do so, tell me what is correct.

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