BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — The Bedford Fire Department says the fire at a downtown business could have been much worse had they not been fully staffed that day. Fire Departments like businesses across the nation are dealing with staff shortages.
Chief Todd Stone from the Bedford Fire Department says there were about 19 firefighters on the scene that day- adding that this amount of manpower allowed them to not just put the fire out quickly, but to contain it as well.
“We were able to get a large hole in the building, which makes the fire travel up and not horizontally up the block, so we were able to slow that fire down and have us control the fire, not have the fire control us,” said Chief Stone.
He says they got the fire out in 50 minutes with no injuries and no fire damage to nearby structures.
“We were able to get into the other buildings and open up the ceilings and kind of cut the fire off,” said Chief Stone.
However, having a 19-person response team is definitely not always possible. Chief Jason Ferguson from Botetourt Fire and EMS says for many volunteer departments, it’s harder to maintain a constant high volume of firefighters.
“We’re relying on folks that oftentimes are doing this on their off hours from their normal jobs and things like that to get to the station and staff a truck,” said Chief Ferguson.
He adds that departments are having to get creative to stay efficient– one way they do this is by cross-training EMS and firefighting.
“They can pull up in an ambulance and they may not have the water and the hose line to fight fire, but as soon as the truck does arrive, then they can add to that workforce and get the job done more efficiently,” he said.
Ferguson also says training junior firefighters can be an impactful way to increase coverage– adding that making sure structures are equipped with safety in mind can also make a difference.
“They have alarms systems, making sure they have sprinklers and are designed to ensure the greatest amount of life safety possible, given that we don’t have a response force that’s available at all times and all places,” said Chief Ferguson.
Ferguson adds that especially volunteer departments, like Bedford and Botetourt are always looking for extra help if the community wants to get involved.