Short-staffed Colonial Heights Fire Department dealing with increased calls

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WRIC) — The Colonial Heights Fire Chief says the department is short staffed in the midst of ongoing emergencies, just like the house fire they responded to on July 16 that left one man in serious condition.

The fire happened on Virginia Ave., where neighbors said that a good Samaritan banged on the door to wake up and alert the residents that the house was on fire.

“We went over there looking around where’s the ambulance because Bob is still inside and obviously we would need one,” Colonial Heights resident Maria Saunders explained.

Fire crews arrived quickly on scene and rescued the man from the house. A firefighter performed CPR on him while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.

“In my head, I am thinking, they need to take him to the hospital, because he was not conscious, they brought him out and he was just … it was scary,” said Saunders.

After a mutual agreement, an ambulance from Petersburg responded.  8News reporter Parker Slaybaugh asked the Colonial Heights Fire Chief what was the cause of the initial delay.

“What ended up happening that particular day, we had nine firefighters on duty, and two of our fire fighters got called out about 10 minutes before that structure fire to handle a medical call so we had seven personnel respond,” Colonial Heights Fire Chief A.G. Moore explained.

Chief Moore said that there is a total of five ambulances in the city. But there’s only enough staff to man two or three of them. He also said that in 2017 alone, they have seen a 20 percent increase in calls compared to what they saw this time last year.

Currently, the bare minimum of on duty staff is nine persons. Moore said that he would like to see 11 on duty at any time.

“I think certainly we’re at a crossroads right now with our increased call load, our increase transport to the hospital were at a point right now where we need these additional staff as soon as possible,” said Moore.

Moore also said that the increase in call load is likely due to the aging population in the area. He also noted that his staff works double duty as firefighters and ambulance operators.

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