By Deanna LeBlanc Published: December 22, 2015, 8:50 pm
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The president of the Local International Association of Fire Fighters 539, which represents Portsmouth, questioned whether the department’s response to a fatal fire could have been more efficient on Tuesday.
Rusty Quillin, with the Local 539, is concerned staffing issues created a problem.
According to Deputy Fire Chief Mike Stockton, a spokesperson for the Portsmouth Fire Department, each time there is a fire call in the city, dispatchers radio for two engine trucks and one ladder truck.
The nearest fire house to Tuesday’s fire on Tarnywood Drive in the Churchland section of the city, is Station 3. The station houses both an engine and a ladder truck. So in theory, along with an engine company from another station, both the ladder and engine from Station 3 would be dispatched.
“They’d be right behind the engine company. So theoretically they should arrive at the same time which instantly gives you six people on the scene,” Quillin says.
Because of staffing shortages, Ladder 3 was out of service Monday night into Tuesday. While other engine and rescue companies from other stations responded moments after Engine 3, the first ladder truck did not arrive on scene until 18 minutes after it was dispatched, according to a fire report from Deputy Chief Stockton.
“It’s hard to say the difference to the outcome, what it would have made if that ladder was right there right behind the engine company, it’d be all speculation,” Quillin says. “It’s safe to say the more people you get there the quicker you get them there, the higher the chance is for a rescue or a safe if the occupancy is tenable.”
WAVY.com took Quillin’s concerns to Deputy Chief Mike Stockton with the Portsmouth Fire Department.
“These units didn’t come any further than normal. The ladder came from downtown. The ladder carries certain tools. As for the ladder, we don’t need it. But they do carry certain tools,” Stockton said.
When it came to staffing issues, Stockton told us that he would not comment on any questions regarding department operations. He said the volume of the response was appropriate, regardless of which units arrived from which stations.
While Quillin is not specifically questioning whether the response impacted how quickly the fire Tuesday morning on Tarnywood Drive was put out, he worries what could happen when a ladder company becomes a critical need.
“I relate it to Russian roulette. Sooner or later you’re going to get the bullet. So if we’re putting stuff out of service in different areas of the city, eventually, it’s going to catch up to you,” Quillin said.
(Public Safety Alert- 10.01.17) 6 companies out of service; Engine 2- provides service in the downtown area, Engine 10- provides service in the Cavalier Manor area, Ladder 3- provides service in the Churchland area, Rescue 1- provide service through the city on high priority events, Medic 1- busiest Medic in the city and EMS 2- provides critical life saving assistance through out the city. To our community and our members out there today, please be careful.