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The Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Newsletter

Winter 2013

On Call Inside Public Safety Officers Rescue Two While Vacationing Page 3 EMS Volunteers Pull Two Victims from Apartment Fire Page 4 Department Hires New Operational Medical Director Page 7 Career Academy Graduates Page 8 Department Promotes Seven Officers Page 10-11 RCFRD Distributes Safety Tip Tags to Live Christmas Tree Sellers Page 12

From the Chief Winter is upon us and the holiday season is fast approaching. It is the time of year that we celebrate with families and friends but we should not forget to be mindful of safety as emergencies can occur any time of the year. As you will see in other articles in this edition, we are fortunate to have many dedicated individuals who stand at the ready to save lives, whether on duty or not, risking their own lives in the process. For some, it is their job, for others it is their contribution, for all it is their passion and life’s calling. As you go through the upcoming months, please keep emergency preparedness and safety in the forefront as you prepare for road trips, travel in hazardous weather conditions, heat your homes during cold weather, and decorate for the holidays. Throughout the publication you will find safety tips and reminders to help you avoid an emergency befalling you or your family. While we are always ready to answer your call for assistance, we truly wish that you never have to make that call to 9-1-1. As mentioned in the State of the County Address recently, it has been another difficult budget year which has prompted complicated decisions to address budget concerns. Hopefully, the County will receive more encouraging revenue forecasts in the near future which will lessen the current strain on the budget. During this challenging budget time the department continues to pursue any opportunity for grant funding. We were fortunate to be awarded an Assistance to Firefighter grant to purchase a much needed station alerting system and paging enhancement. With the above mentioned budget constraints for the past several years, it was crucial that we were successful to fund this critical major project. The Fire Station Alerting System which was purchased through Locution went live on May 14, 2013. The system is alerted through a computer aided dispatch (CAD) interface based on what the CAD system recommends. The stations are alerted via the County network which only alerts the stations that are dispatched to the respective call. We have implemented two different types of alerts (fire or EMS), our personnel like the fact that right when they hear the alert tone it tells them what type of call to expect. We established a set day/night mode which ensures station personnel are not bothered by unwanted radio traffic during night time. We are confident that we have a reliable means to dispatch calls for many years to come. The department would also like to extend a heartfelt welcome to our new Operational Medical Director, Dr. Michael Saccocci. As we look ahead at the coming year, we anticipate much success under his guidance. We look forward to more successes during the next year and as always it is our pleasure to serve the citizens of Roanoke County. On behalf of the entire department, I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.


On Call Newsletter

Public Safety Officers Rescue Two While Vacationing Roanoke County Firefighter/EMT Barry Brown and his friend since childhood, Roanoke County police Officer Eric Austin, were vacationing with their families in Holden Beach, North Carolina during the July fourth holiday when their training was called into action. It was their first day of vacation and they were sitting on the sand enjoying the sunshine. The water was extremely rough with rip current warnings posted. Officer Austin noticed a lady jump up from her beach chair and race into the ocean. Austin looked farther out into the water and saw a boy flailing his arms. He jumped up, raced to the ocean and dove in. Firefighter/EMT Brown, without hesitation jumped up and followed his friend into the rough waters. They both swam out to the child and mother who were about 200 feet from shore. Brown reached the boy first and hoisted him over his head while he tried to swim him to shore. Austin battled with the woman before calming her down. She was so frantic that she nearly pushed both men under the water. The rip current was strong and it pulled them away from shore even farther. Eventually, the current broke and they were able to Firefighter/EMT Barry Brown and police Ofpull the young boy and mother to land. They did ficer Eric Austin share their heroic story with not realize the magnitude of their actions until af- the board of supervisors as Chief of Police ter they reached shore and began to think about Howard Hall listens. what could have happened. Later, they learned by local news reports that four vacationers had died during the week as a result of rip currents and two of the dead were would-be rescuers. Back home in Roanoke, Fire Chief Richard E. Burch, Jr. and police Chief Howard Hall, along with the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors recognized the men for their heroic efforts.

On Call Newsletter


EMS Volunteers Pull Two Victims from Apartment Fire Two EMS volunteers who arrived at an apartment fire within minutes of the dispatched call were faced with a difficult decision. Once arriving on scene at the Villages at Garst Creek in southwest Roanoke County, Paramedic Ethan Dressler and EMT in training Hunter Mood jumped out of the ambulance while Volunteer Captain Ryan Boughal positioned the truck for a fast exit. Dressler and Mood were told that victims were inside. The two volunteers from Cave Spring Rescue Squad—also volunteer firefighters with the Cave Spring Fire Department—sized up the scene and reported smoke showing from the locked front door of a first floor apartment and flames visible through a window. They grabbed a Halligan bar and broke open the front door. Now, they could see two bodies lying on the floor with no movement. The apartment was filling up with smoke, but they still had visibility. Protocol would indicate for them to wait for the en route fire firefighters, but minutes and even seconds make the difference when lives are on the line, so they made the decision to go in and pull the men to safety. Police Officer Cara Jacobs had also arrived and assisted with the rescue. The patients were treated and taken to a local hospital by the same EMS crew. Dressler, Mood, Boughal and Jacobs got a special thank you from the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, September 24 for their remarkable rescue efforts that day.

RCFRD Chief Richard Burch and Police Chief Howard Hall (back left), along with Cave Spring Rescue Chief Laura Alexander and Cave Spring Fire Chief Robert Perdue, and Chairman Michael Altizer (back right) recognize Cara Jacobs, Ethan Dressler, Hunter Mood and Ryan Boughal (front from right to left). Amy Ham from CSRS(front left) was also in attendance to offer her support.

Winter Safety tips: Have your chimney inspected once a year and cleaned or repaired if necessary. Also, keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from a space heater.

When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of UL listing, and be sure to have fixed space heaters installed properly.

 When using fireplaces and woodstoves, use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote



On Call Newsletter

Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.

Have any gas-fueled heating device installed with proper attention to ventilation. If un-vented gas space heaters are used in bedrooms or bathrooms, make sure they are small and well-mounted.

Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.

2013 Retirements Battalion Chief Gary Houff Gary began his career as a volunteer with Vinton Volunteer Fire Company in 1977. After serving seven years as a volunteer, Gary was hired as a firefighter in 1984. He progressed through the ranks to Sergeant, Captain, and Battalion Chief of Operations before he retired on April 2013. During the years of his service he was on the response teams for the Flood of 1985, the Starlight Lane Tire Fire in 2002, and the Green Ridge Mountain fire in 2008. Gary lives in Vinton with his wife of 28 years, Connie. They have two daughters, Sarah and Callie.

Battalion Chief Rodney Ferguson Rodney began his career with the department in 1983. Throughout his career he has served as firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Fire Marshall, Battalion Chief of Operations and Battalion Chief of Training before retiring in June 2013. While assigned to the Roanoke Valley Regional Training Center he facilitated a grant from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs to build a new burn building that will be used to train personnel for many years to come. Rodney and his wife Sheila reside in Roanoke County and have two children, a daughter, Taylor and a son, Andrew.

On Call Newsletter


Holiday safety should be on your “to do” list during the holiday season. Here are important safety tips from the Virginia Department of Forestry to help you celebrate safely and reduce the risk of fire. Holiday Trees 

DO NOT use candles on or near the tree.

Place the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces and heaters. 

Keep your holiday tree in a sturdy base filled with water. Check the water level every day. 

Safely dispose of your tree before it becomes dangerously dry. NEVER burn the tree or tree parts in your fireplace. 

Holiday Lights 

Use “UL” approved lights.

Examine all indoor and outdoor lights for frayed cords and replace if necessary.  

Never use lights that have an empty socket.

Lights should not touch combustible materials.

"Indoor" lights should never be used outdoors.

Avoid using extension cords, but if you do, follow instructions carefully. 

Do not overload electrical circuits such as wall outlets and extension cords. Use a circuit strip. 

Holiday Gift Wrap Keep papers, bows and trims away from heat sources such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, etc.  


Never burn gift wrappings in your fireplace.

On Call Newsletter

Department Hires New Operational Medical Director Dr. Mike Saccocci is RCFRD's new Operational Medical Director (OMD). Originally from New Jersey, he has deep roots in EMS, with over 9 years of combined volunteer and career EMS experience, starting at age 16. Prior to becoming a doctor, he was formerly the Interim Director and Past-President of the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad, and was particularly honored when chosen to lead his squad's component to the New Jersey EMS Task Force response to Ground Zero, NYC, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He is currently employed at LewisGale Medical Center as a Staff Anesthesiologist, with the Valley Anesthesia group. He completed his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he served as Chief Resident. A veteran and former Major in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, he completed a short overseas tour in Afghanistan at the busiest trauma unit in Afghanistan in 2009. There, he personally administered daily trauma care to over 400 U.S. and NATO troops and numerous injured locals. He has academic interests in critical care medicine, acute pain management, life support education, and development of high-fidelity simulation training for medical crisis events. As the new OMD, his vision is to utilize his unique training and experiences to continue the advancements pioneered by Drs. Gilbert and Beltran. He is truly honored by this position and wants to facilitate progressive improvements in EMS care/ delivery though continued advanced training, simulation, and quality assurance programs. He enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, bicycling, and practicing rifle marksmanship. He is currently building a house in the Mount Pleasant section of the county. Dr. Saccocci, his wife Cyndy, and six year old son, Kyle, are all very happy to call Roanoke County home!

On Call Newsletter


Career Academy Graduates The Sixteenth Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Academy consisting of 21 personnel representing the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, and Roanoke County graduated on July 3, 2013 at the Roanoke Civic Center, Performing Arts Theatre. Each recruit was called to the stage and pinned with their new firefighter badge as their families looked on. Ten individuals representing Roanoke Fire-EMS and 11 individuals representing Roanoke County Fire & Rescue spent 18 weeks and over 700 hours receiving instruction and practical training in the areas of basic firefighting skills and emergency medical service (EMS) techniques. The fire training included: building construction, forcible entry, ventilation, search and rescue, and hazardous material operations; while the EMS training included: basic anatomy and physiology, using a spine board, medical trauma assessments, how to stop bleeding, treating diabetic, cardiac, respiratory, heat and cold emergencies, lifting patients, how to use a variety of medical equipment, and the importance of patient rights. The academy ended with a live-burn at the Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Training Center where recruits were able to test their practical skills. Most of the training was completed at the Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Training Center located on Kessler Mill Road in Roanoke County. Bringing the fire and EMS departments together to learn, train, and grow provides consistency among all firefighter/EMS personnel—whether stationed in City of Roanoke, Roanoke County or City of Salem—minimizing costs to each jurisdiction through shared instructors and equipment. Although there were just City of Roanoke and Roanoke County recruits in this particular academy instruction was provided by a variety of instructors from all three partnering localities. The Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Training Center is a partnership between Roanoke County, the City of Roanoke, the City of Salem, and the Town of Vinton; and is a continuing effort to enhance fire and EMS safety operations and to improve the delivery of these critical services through better training. It creates a system that allows for each area to have access to a state-of-the-art facility, as well as the sharing of resources to include specialized instructors and equipment, resulting in greater productivity region-wide. The graduates received their station assignments immediately following the ceremony and some started their shifts the next day and will continue to provide services to the citizens for many years. Noted below are the Roanoke County graduates. Congratulations!

Chad Perry, injured at the end of the recruit school and unable to participate with his graduating class, was pinned and assigned to duty on October 15, 2013. Congratulations as well!


On Call Newsletter

Be prepared for winter storms! You should be able to support your household for at least three days in case help cannot immediately access your residence. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management provides the following checklist for your convenience.

On Call Newsletter


Department Promotes Seven Officers Positions will fill vacancies left open from departures and retirements

August 23, 2013 (ROANOKE COUNTY)—Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Department held a Promotion Ceremony on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 to promote seven personnel to officer ranks. The promotions will fill officer vacancies created by departures and retirements. Members of the Roanoke County Administration, Chief Richard E. Burch, Jr., department personnel, and family members were in attendance to witness and participate in the official pinning of two Battalion Chiefs, two Captains and three Lieutenants. The officers then recited the department’s officer oath. Listed below are the newly promoted officers. Barry Hurley has been promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief of Operations. Barry volunteered with the county for six years prior to being hired in 1994 as a part- time Paramedic/ Firefighter. He then became full-time in 1996 and in 1997 was promoted to the rank of Paramedic Instructor Firefighter, now called Field Training Officer (FTO). Barry was promoted to Captain in 2005 and in 2009 he accepted the position of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Captain. He has served at our Cave Spring, Hollins, Clearbrook, and Fort Lewis stations along with a stint at the Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Training Center (RVRTC). Barry has four children:Josh, 23, is serving in the USMC; Seth, 18, is serving in the U.S. Army; Tyler, 16; and Alexis, 14. Barry also has two grandchildren. Brian Witt has been promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief of the Training Division and will serve at the Roanoke Valley Regional Fire & EMS Training Center in on Kessler Mill Road (near Salem). Brian was originally hired in 1997 as a Firefighter/EMT after serving seven years as a volunteer firefighter with the Hollins Fire & Rescue Company. Brian was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 2001 and then Captain in 2003. Brian has served at the North County, Cave Spring, Hollins, and Masons Cove stations along with the RVRTC. Brian grew up in north Roanoke County and now lives in Botetourt County with his wife of twenty years, Donna, and two children, Jason and Brianna.

Jonathan Blank has been promoted to the rank of Captain and has been assigned to the North County Station # 1. Jon was hired in 1999 as a Paramedic/Firefighter. In 2005, he was assigned to the RVRTC as a Training Officer and then in 2009 he was promoted to Lieutenant rank. He has served at the North County, Cave Spring, Hollins, Clearbrook, Fort Lewis, and Back Creek stations along with a stint at the RVRTC. Jon was born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised in Roanoke. Jon and his wife, Barbie have six kids: Destinne, 13; Ethan, 11; Austin, 11; Gabrielle, 9; Wyatt, 7; and Nyzer, 6.

Michael “Toby” Martin has been promoted to the rank of Captain and has been assigned to the Fort Lewis Station #9. Toby was hired in 1999 as a Firefighter/EMT and then promoted in 2009 to the rank of Lieutenant. He has also represented the department as Honor Guard Coordinator, State Trustee of Virginia Professional Firefighters, Union President and Instructor for the National Honor Guard Academy. Toby was born and raised in Bedford County and still lives there today. Toby has three children, Nicole, Teddy and Kristofer.


On Call Newsletter

John Ferron has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and has been assigned to the Fort Lewis Station #9. John was hired as Paramedic/Firefighter in 2001. He has served at the North County, Vinton, Fort Lewis, and Masons Cove stations. John is a certified Instructor I and serves on the Wildland Firefighter Team. He is working towards his Fire Science Associates Degree. John grew up in Bedford County and continues to live there now with his wife, Liz.

Brandon Sheppard has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and has been assigned to the Masons Cove Station #10. Brandon was hired in 2004 as a Firefighter/EMT. He was promoted to Paramedic/Firefighter in 2007 and assigned to RVRTC as a Training Officer in 2012. He has served at the North County, Hollins, Fort Lewis and Masons Cove stations along with the RVRTC. Brandon lives in Montgomery County with his wife of 13 years and son who is two years old. Brandon also served as a volunteer firefighter with the LongShop McCoy Volunteer Department before coming to work for RCFRD.

Brad Zollman has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and has been assigned to the Clearbrook Station #7. Brad was hired as a Paramedic/Firefighter in 2003. He has served at the Cave Spring, Clearbrook, Fort Lewis, and Back Creek stations. Brad also serves on the Heavy Technical Rescue (HTR) and Wildland Firefighter team. He holds an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. Brad and his family live in Roanoke.

Chief Richard E. Burch, Jr. congratulates the seven new officers. (LR) Zollman, Sheppard, Ferron, Martin, Blank, Witt, Hurley, Chief Burch.

On Call Newsletter


RCFRD Distributes Safety Tip Tags to Live Christmas Tree Sellers

5925 Cove Road Roanoke, Virginia 24019

By Brian Clingenpeel

Main Phone: 540-777-8701

Please send comments to

Visit our website at

I am sure that all of us have some Christmas traditions that are very meaningful to us. One of those traditions may be having a live Christmas tree in your home. I too really enjoy the scent of a live evergreen at Christmas. However, all you have to do is watch the video of how fast an un-watered live Christmas tree burns versus one that has been well taken care of, to know the dangers of having a live tree in your home at Christmas. (You can search Youtube for NFPA/UL Christmas tree fire or type this link into your browser RNjO3wZDVlA )

The NFPA website tells us that between 2006-2010, fire departments in the United States ran on average, 230 structure fires a year that are caused by Christmas trees. These fires then cause, on average, 4 deaths a year, 21 injuries a year, and about 17 million dollars in damage each year. Considering those facts, you may realize that while Christmas tree fires may not be all that common, when they do happen they tend to be very serious. I have personally been on a fire caused by a Christmas tree and seen the speed with which the fire burns and the very high heat caused by the tree and the devastation that is then brought on a family during the holidays. The Roanoke County Fire Marshal’s Office does not want to see that happen to anybody and so for that reason, for the past 8 years, we have administered a tree tag program. Here is how it works: The Fire Marshal’s office prints between 5,000 and 10,000, red and green tags that contain Christmas tree and Christmas light safety tips. The tags include tips like making sure that the tree is watered, making sure the tree is kept away from heat sources, use only UL approved lights, inspect the lights for frayed wires and discard the tree when it becomes dry. The reverse side also includes reminders about smoke alarms. We then deliver these tags to anyone we live Christmas trees. These places range owned tree farms and lots that sell trees attach a safety tag to every tree sold our tree tags also double as a price tag. printed price tags, along with the gets safety information included with read and heeded! Tree tag delivery starts every year is when live tree lots start to open around Thanksgiving are most We will be out again this year we hope that everyone has a son.

know of, in Roanoke County, who sells from big box stores to small privately for charity. We encourage the seller to AND to help with that encouragement So the seller gets nice looking, prewires to attach them and the buyer every tree. Hopefully the tags are right around Thanksgiving as that and those trees that are bought likely to dry out by Christmas. delivering our tree tags and safe and happy holiday sea-

2013 Winter On Call Newsletter  
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