Editor: I want to take a moment and extend my thanks for the professional manner in which all of our fire-rescue system prepared for, responded to, and endured last week’s winter storm that struck our area. Throughout our long history of providing competent and caring assistance to the public in times of storms (and other disasters), the public has come to depend upon the fire and rescue service being there. While rare in their occurrence, these storms require that our members stand up to the challenges. Last week was no exception.
The recent storm posed tremendous challenges for our fire and rescue system. From the first snow flake on Friday afternoon through the early stage of the recovery period on Sunday into Monday, our combined system handled more than 550 emergency calls, or almost double that experienced during a “normal” time period. Many of these calls were life-threatening in nature and required the use of a large response force to gain access and perform coordinated response actions. Many calls were also more routine in nature; however, due to road and other access conditions, they again required time and resources to complete.
While I will never know or be able to understand all of the individual effort and circumstances they faced, I do know that everyone who worked or volunteered throughout the storm is a hero.
In addition to providing response, many had participated in the planning aspects of the storm. I felt we were very prepared in terms of the up-staffing of additional response and support units. The “around the clock” staffing of the Emergency Operations Center placed additional demand upon members. And collectively, but less obvious, the outreach and public messaging to the public to assist with clearing around fire hydrants and gas vents, to be cognizant of reducing stress while shoveling snow and to stay off the roads so that highway crews could work so that we could get to where we needed to go was very important to the successes we had.
It was truly a great effort. As the chief of the system, I have been blessed to have numerous accolades directed to our system from members of the public, the Board of Supervisors and County Administration. They also benefitted from our commitment to excellence. A key point is that our public does not identify us by anything other than how we conduct ourselves when they call for help. It is under these circumstances, when conditions are at their very worst, that we are at our very best. Fire-rescue workers are the ones who go out when no one else can or will. They are the ones who place their families second and place service above self. They are the ones who trudge more than a mile through unplowed roadways to reach a patient in need or to drag a hose line to a raging house fire. They are the ones who perform CPR on a victim without stopping when all others are delayed. They are the ones who understand that unless we place ourselves at risk to save an animal, the public will do so and then we will be rescuing them and possibly becoming victims.
For all of this, and for what they continue to do every day, please know that I will never take their contributions for granted and will never for one moment stop holding them up as examples of the most professional and dedicated group of emergency services personnel anywhere.
Keith Brower, Jr., Chief of the System
Loudoun County Fire-Rescue