Calling For Backup

PARKERSBURG – When a lightning strike set a home on Wyndemere Drive ablaze Tuesday, it wasn’t just city – or even West Virginia – firefighters that swung into action.

Vienna and Williamstown volunteer firefighters responded to the scene to assist Parkersburg firefighters with manpower and pumping water up the hill on which the house stands. Meanwhile, volunteer firefighters from the Waverly and Lubeck fire departments provided coverage in case an emergency happened in Vienna, while members of the Belpre and Reno volunteer fire departments crossed the Ohio River to safeguard Williamstown and Parkersburg.

Vienna Fire Chief Steve Scholl remarked Wednesday on “how well all the departments in the county worked together in this situation.

“The public needs to (do) whatever they can to help the departments however they can,” he said, noting the loss of one department could affect the coverage of all.

While Parkersburg had 20 firefighters on the Wyndemere scene – all of its on-duty staff and some pulled in on overtime – Vienna firefighters manned a station in Parkersburg. Belpre firefighters responded to a report of smoke at R&J Recycling on Garfield Avenue that turned out not to be a fire, Parkersburg Fire Chief Eric Taylor said.

“No department is able to do it on their own, so I think we all do rely on each other,” he said. “And we work well together.”

The fire was reported at 4:52 p.m. Tuesday. Although Parkersburg had some firefighters on scene at Wyndemere until about midnight, the department was able to resume its regular coverage and respond to medical calls after about two hours, Taylor said.

Fire departments have long had mutual aid agreements, but Lubeck Fire Chief Mark Stewart said that assistance has been called upon more frequently as the ranks of volunteer departments dwindle.

“Fire service isn’t as heavily populated as it used to be,” he said. If Vienna sends the bulk of its forces to assist in a fire like Tuesday’s without someone to step in, “they leave their city wide open for anything to happen and nobody to be there.”

Vienna had two engines at the Wyndemere scene and a third covering a station in Parkersburg because so many of their firefighters were at Wyndemere. So the Lubeck department dispatched eight firefighters, an engine and a rescue truck to the Vienna station, joined by an engine and five firefighters from Waverly.

Stewart said there were still eight firefighters on standby for Lubeck, and the nearby Blennerhassett and Washington Bottom departments would have pitched in in an emergency.

“We can yank one whole department and send them somewhere, and we still have coverage,” Stewart said of the three departments south of Parkersburg.

“Wood County is very blessed to have emergency service organizations that get along as well as they do,” said Stewart, who also serves as an assistant state fire marshal.

In addition to the Wood County-wide mutual aid agreement, Lubeck has an individual agreement with the Little Hocking Volunteer Fire Department, which has assisted them in the past, Stewart said.