Follow up on Wytheville … Damn that evil Captain Wines and his mustache!

The comments etc are heating up following my last post surrounding several issues in Wythe County Va. … more specifically, the Wytheville Fire Department.

Some are even trying to make me out as the “bad guy” here.

It’s been suggested that I am untrained and lack the intellect to publish my opinion or comments on Fire/EMS related issues pertaining to communities that I don’t live in (For some unknown reason, apparently; my mustache is also partly to blame …lol).

Read my previous post HERE

There are several issues here and, if you’ll stick with me; we’ll go over them.

First off, this is MY site. The views and opinions published here are MINE. They are in no way connected to, approved by or endorsed by my employer. With that said, I would hope that my 25+ years in Fire/EMS (paid and volunteer) along with my certifications, experience etc does allow for me to form an educated, valid opinion on such issues. This site is merely an outlet for me to voice them.  With all due respect, if you don’t like the stories I publish … don’t read them. I value your opinion and your right to disagree with mine. My comment policy is open as long as it’s kept civil. There are a few words / phrases that will cause your comment not to be “approved” but it has nothing to do with whether or not you agree with or speak positive of me or this site (very few comments have NOT been approved … none pertaining to the Wytheville post).

I’ve been asked … why “pick on” Wytheville, their Fire Department and the Chief?

I’m not “picking on” any of them. I’m publishing information related to issues that I see as problematic for the Fire Service and the communities we serve.

They are not small issues either …. there are some very serious problems exposed in my post and many more questions left unanswered.

I see myself as an advocate for the Fire Service. Like my father, I too am a firefighter and I take a lot of PRIDE in that. I have that same PRIDE for the Brothers and Sisters who came before us … the ones who helped build the American Fire Service and bring us to the level at which we are today … the best in the world! That’s why I titled this site as I did … a reflection back to the days of “Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen”.

I’m an advocate for firefighters, paid and volunteer alike. “Everyone Goes Home” is not just a “catch phrase” for me. I work extensively with multiple organizations to directly support Departments and their members in need. I am fortunate enough to be able to do so on a level greater than just the community I serve.

I’m also an advocate for those we protect …our citizens … our communities …. large and small. Part of our duty as firefighters is public education and I believe it goes deeper than fire prevention. I think we also need to educate our customers on acceptable levels of service. What SHOULD they expect from their Fire Department? They also need education on what’s needed to meet those standards as far as funding, staffing, training, equipment etc. In some communities, our firefighters need that same education.

So, back to Wytheville. I’ve been posting about Wythe County for some time now. It all started back when I posted about the issues in Botetourt County and convicted felons serving on Fire/EMS agencies. Several months back, Wythe County made a bold and smart decision (in my opinion) in not allowing felons to actively serve. They also faced issues within the Speedwell VFD and were forced to make another bold decision that closed the doors “in the interest of Public Safety”.

The Wythe County Board of Supervisors has earned my faith in being able to make the right vs popular decision. I think they acted appropriately in both of the previous situations. Find Wythe County’s web site HERE.

Now, they’re facing issues within the Wytheville Fire Department and I believe they can all be traced back to poor leadership / management.  These issues are not new, nor were they “made up” by me. Where is the first place to look within a Department when you have issues such as these??? The Chief. In this case, The Wytheville Fire Department’s Chief is Ronnie “Ron” King ( find his Firefighter Nation Bio HERE ) 

I don’t know Chief King personally, nor do I have anything “against” him. This is NOT a personal attack. For all I know, Chief King is a great person and an upstanding member of his community.

I’ll just add that it takes more than that to be the Chief of a Department. Among other things, it takes responsibility. Responsibility for his members and the community they’re sworn to serve and protect.

Most recently, the Wytheville Fire Department has had 2 fires within a week. The fires were just miles apart and approx 5.8 miles from their station. Both homes were a total loss. Now don’t get me wrong … houses burn down … urban and rural.  I’ve made plenty of vacant and  parking lots over my career. What troubles me is some of the details involved in these fires.

A secure, well established water supply seems to be at least one of the issues on both incidents. Was the Wytheville Fire Department not aware that water is an issue in this area? Have they not Pre-Planned this area and made preparations for water? Why are neighboring jurisdictions not automatically dispatched to these areas to assist with tankers? Do they not have automatic and mutual aid agreements within their own County? Is this a Department or County issue?

Are all the tankers in the County outfitted the same? Do they have the same diameter hose, type of couplings etc? Are they compatible with  each other? If not, are the members aware and do they carry the necessary adapters? All this information should be worked out well in advance of a fire.

It’s been said that there were “issues” with a dry hydrant on one of the fires. Was this a training issue, equipment failure or something else? What exactly was that problem and who is working to correct it?

The Chief was quoted in an article talking about the “new technique” he deployed on the Crockett’s Cove Road fire. They basically preformed salvage efforts as opposed to extinguishing the fire (members did enter the Chase Lane fire for interior attack and searches). It made no sense. I’m not alone in my thoughts here … watch the video (just for a good laugh) and then read the article and the comments from SW Va Today in the link below….

Full article from SW Va Today found HERE

(Also read comments from my Face Book pages HERE and HERE)

I’d love to know more details and the thought process here. If the house was too well involved to enter for suppression efforts, then what made it safe enough for salvage operations? I’m pretty well versed on strategy  and tactics yet I still can’t make sense of  this operation ( “new technique”). Maybe instead of cutting the exterior walls, they could have cut a hole in the roof for ventilation? Knocked it down from the exterior before pushing in (transitional attack)? I don’t want to “Monday morning quarterback” this one to death but there just seems to have been so many more options. BASIC options that may have resulted in the saving of more than a few guns, some cloths and an x-box.

I’m sure there were factors on scene that I’m not aware of … after all, I wasn’t there. I’m curious as to the minimum level of training within their Department. How many of their members are “certified” for interior operations? How many of those were on scene of the Crockett’s Cove fire?

How often to they train? What are the topics and who are the instructors? Do they have a Training Chief (Officer)? Do they ever train with their neighboring Departments?

How many members do they have on the roster? How many were on scene and in what time frame? Do they use the Incident Management System and if so, how are they accountable for those members? What is their policy on responding in personal vehicles?

I believe the town staffs a single paid member at the station who acts as a Driver / Operator (engineer). Do they allow this member to leave the station with a staffing of only one?

So many of these questions/factors could have fatal consequences if not answered / addressed.  Do they have the “it will never happen here” mentality? I hope not…. the results can be devastating…FATAL.

Can you imagine the NIOSH report should something ever happen when tactics like these are being deployed on a regular basis? Who would they hold accountable? The County? The Town? The Department? The Chief? The Training Officer? It doesn’t matter because it wont bring back the dead. Death is not an “illusion” … it’s VERY REAL and never pretty.

Read a previous post “The Illusion of Death” click HERE

Again, more and more questions arise. Minimum staffing. Just how effective is a single member responding on a piece of apparatus? Did you watch that video above … YOU NEED TO. Yea.. but our members live close and can get there quick. Really? How quick? How fast will they have to drive to do so? There have been 73 Line of Duty Deaths so far this year. 46.6% of them were volunteers. 15.1% of those were while responding (find the entire report and more details HERE).

Again, I think I’ve raised some legitimate questions and concerns. If the members of the Wytheville Fire Department have become complacent, they need to WAKE UP. Firefighting is NOT a hobby! Maybe the residents of Wythe County don’t expect more .. if they don’t, they’re being cheated and the Wytheville Fire Department is doing their community a disservice. From what I’ve seen, the money spent on turnout gear and suppression equipment could be better spent somewhere else. They could run a salvage crew (related links HERE and HERE) and do the same as what they appear to be accomplishing now.

I should add here that I’m certain the Wytheville Fire Department, as well as Wythe County; has some GREAT firefighters. These Brothers and Sisters have a response area that includes 2 major Interstates (I-81 and I-77), urban / wild land interface, industrial complexes etc.  I hope they have a Chief capable of leading them in the right direction … Im not sure they do and if I’m right, I hope they find one. Their lives (and those of their community) depend on it.

I hope that by shedding light on these issues, the Wytheville Fire Department will emerge a better trained, safer and more efficient Department. That’s up to them and their leadership. I’ll extend an offer to these Brothers and Sisters to help in any way possible … all they have to do is ask.

I’ll remind those who commented stating that my facts in the original post were wrong that I attempted to contact the parties involved before publishing. I even requested transcripts from their 911 coordinator (who I believe is also a volunteer with the Wytheville Fire Department) through the Freedom Of Information Act so I could assure my timelines were accurate and read the communications first hand. So far, I have only been contacted by the Auxiliary and a member of the WFD who was pictured in the post.

Instead of following my site, maybe these folks should keep up with our good friend Dave Statter ( …. ok … they should follow us both.

Dave would have told them to reply to my requests and “get out in front” of the “issues”. That’s always better than playing “catch up” in these type of incidents .

Had they have replied, I would have been able to publish their “side” of the story. The side that despite all the comments etc, I still haven’t heard. Some of the comments are saying I have it all wrong but nobody is telling me what’s right.

As always, the comment section remains open. I’ll be back on duty tomorrow and check back in with ya as soon as possible. Until I do … stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines