I was reading the Daily Business Plan, a daily communication from the battalion staff to the department, stating in a one-page document the operational plan for the day. One part of the document is a listing of the “significant” calls from the past three shifts. On this day, both shifts had been very busy, with two of the department’s specialty teams being dispatched for mutual aid to neighboring jurisdictions. The on-duty technical rescue team was dispatched to Amelia for a person who had fallen into a grain silo. The on-duty hazardous material team was dispatched to Richmond to assist with decontamination from an acetone spill. In addition, Engine 18 was dispatched to assist Hopewell Fire on Interstate 295 with blocking.
When specialty teams are dispatched on calls, there are certain stations that house specialty units, but there are a lot of moving parts involved in a specialty team response. Certain pieces of apparatus go out of service so that the specialty units can be staffed. There are some stations that can be void due to other stations being in close proximity, while other stations must be backfilled by units from other stations. Fill-ins are a normal scenario, with the goal of maintaining adequate coverage county-wide.
Mutual aid used to be difficult with no communication between jurisdictions. When fire departments went high frequency and digital, putting regional departments on radios became possible. That allowed units responding outside of the county to switch to operational frequencies for the jurisdiction to which they are responding and then communicate directly with them. Another thing that made mutual aid work more effectively is departments now participating in regional training. Mutual aid agreements are good for outside jurisdictions, and they are good for the citizens of Chesterfield County.
An interesting note is that the Daily Business Plan only lists significant calls. The calls that are not listed are the plethora of everyday heart attacks, strokes, difficulty breathing, emergency childbirths, motor vehicle accidents and car fires, to name a few. In other words, during larger than usual calls that require multiple resources, there are the “routine” calls occurring numerous times daily.
Chesterfield Fire and EMS has highly trained and dedicated public servants operating on the best equipment in the fire service today. This did not happen overnight. Our department began with dedicated volunteers who sought to protect their individual communities. In 1966, Robert L. Eanes was hired as the county’s first fire marshal. In 1969, Eanes became the chief of Chesterfield Fire Department. It was during his 30 years of leadership that Chesterfield Fire and EMS became a great organization full of great people with the resources necessary to do the job.
The exciting thing about being a firefighter was that every workday was a new adventure. You never knew what the next call would be, but you were always ready. I used to say that it was the little things that would get us.
Attention to detail was and is the mantra of our day-to-day work. You could never let your guard down and assume that anything could not go wrong. We checked the equipment at the start of the shift and after every call. Complacency could mean the death of a citizen or a firefighter, so it never had nor does it have any place in today’s fire service. It was a privilege for me to serve alongside great men and women!