The fortitude and courage shown by Chesterfield’s first responders seems to have no bounds of these brave men and women go forth each day facing perils that citizens can only imagine. They sacrifice time away from families and friends; work on holidays; work in zero or 100-degree weather, face rainstorms, snowstorms, and wind; sometimes work their shifts with little or no sleep; miss meals or eat late or eat food that has been reheated many times; all because they have to run out the door to help someone as the firehouse tones sound. They face dangers in traffic both going to and coming from calls. When not answering calls, they are training, exercising to remain physically fit, or maybe taking part in a community program. But, still, each shift they put on their uniforms, click on their badges, and perform their duties. Some of these dedicated personnel were recognized on Oct. 11 for their heroic efforts.
A horrific fire in the 3400 block of Wicklow Lane, on Jan. 17 claimed the lives of five victims. Two firefighters received minor burns and a police officer was cut by glass.
It was a bitter cold night when a call came in for a home on fire that was occupied by 10 people, said Chesterfield Fire and EMS Chief Loy Senter. Police officers and firefighters were met by intense heat and they went to work without hesitation.
“In my 38 years of combined experience in three fire and EMS departments in different localities, this was undoubtedly one of the most high-risk operations I have seen,” Senter said. “During this fire we could have easily lost one or more firefighters.”
Several occupants were able to escape on their own, and others were rescued by police officers and firefighters. Despite the valiant efforts of the public safety team, Senter said five individuals, representing four generations of one family, could not be saved.
“The risk faced by our public safety members,” Senter explained, “is at an all time high. Demand for public safety services continues to increase each year along with the critical nature of these calls handled by those at the front line. “
For heroism displayed at the Wicklow fire, 11 Medals of Valor were presented. The recipients are; Captain Rick L. Grassel, Captain Nicolas S. Smith, Lt. Ted J. Brown, Lt. Kevin Rochelle, firefighters Luther M. Drummond Jr., Linwood W. Humphries, Samuel T. Long, Donald Y. Nobles, James A. Fletcher, Nathan C. Wolz and Jacob L. Newton (firefighter recruit). To receive a Medal of Valor your life has to be on the line.
Other awards presented included 29 Lifesave Awards, 11 Unit Citations, and a Certificate of Commendation (presented to a county police officer).
Incidents included medics saving a patient who was bleeding to death from a stab wound, and citizens who had gone into cardiac arrest, and a police officer rescuing a wheelchair-bound citizen from a fire – when the officer couldn’t pick-up the chair with the resident, he bravely picked up the person and carried them out (two other officers also assisted), automobile crashes and more.
The program consisted of David Tesh (Master of ceremonies),Chesterfield Fire and EMS Honor Guard, Reverend Ronald S. Woody(Chaplain),The Honorable Steve Elswick (Chairman Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors), County Adminstrator Dr. Joseph P. Casey, Fire Chief Edward L. Senter Jr., and Firefighter Greg Beasley (Chesterfield Professional Firefighters Association).
Joseph A. Schwickerath, of Dale District Volunteer Fire Department was Career Firefighter of the Year.
Other awards were also presented.
Senter summed it all up, “I am extremely proud of the members who willing accept these risks in service to others.”