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