For years, fire departments were simply reactive response organizations that went out when “the bell” rang. We took the same amount of equipment and number of people to every run, no matter how different the buildings were. While most departments now understand there is a need to “pre-match” their responses to specific buildings or areas, some departments are slow to change. Some departments seem to act as if it’s “their fire” and do what they want to do. Sadly, they are missing the target. It’s not “your fire” – people call you to put out what is “their fire,” not yours.
Many fire service leaders understand that being prepared before the run goes a long way in helping us save lives and property and minimize having bad stuff happen to us. Additionally, when a department has a significant close call and its leaders are willing to have it critically reviewed so history is not re-lived, it says volumes about the positive leadership of that department. Such is the case with the Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) and related departments in Calvert County, MD.
Grateful appreciation goes out to Chief Jonathan Riffe and the officers and members of HVFD along with the officers and members of the Dunkirk, North Beach and Prince Frederick volunteer fire departments for their assistance in gathering critical information.
About the department
The Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad Inc., Calvert County, MD (a suburb of Washington, DC) Company 6, was officially chartered on Feb. 24, 1972. HVFD operates two class A engines, one tanker, two brush units, one heavy rescue squad, two ambulances, a mobile air cascade and several command and support vehicles. The department protects a response area of approximately 45 square miles bordered by the Chesapeake Bay, Patuxent River. ISO rates the area served by HVFD as a 7. HVFD responds to approximately 2,000 calls for assistance annually. The membership is comprised solely of volunteers.
Operational leadership of HVFD consists of a fire chief, an assistant chief and two deputy chiefs. Below chief officers, two captains (one fire and one EMS) are elected to their positions. Lieutenants, sergeants and safety officers are recommended by a panel of captains and chief officers before being appointed by the fire chief. The department currently has 98 operational volunteers and 10 administrative volunteers.
In 2011, Calvert County fire and rescue departments responded to 21,240 recorded emergency incidents. Of that total, HVFD responded to 2,593 emergency calls. Of the Huntingtown runs, approximately 130 were for reported structural fires. The department is a very active part of the Calvert County Fire & Rescue Association, which includes a countywide automatic mutual aid “box alarm” system.
This incident overview is provided by Chief Riffe:
On March 19, 2011, fire and rescue personnel from HVFD, other departments throughout Calvert County and numerous mutual aid departments from Anne Arundel, Charles and Prince George’s counties responded to a reported house fire at 3380 Soper Road in Huntingtown. The following units and personnel responded on the first alarm:
• HVFD – Engine 62 with five personnel, Engine 61 (three), Squad 6 (six), Tanker 6 (two), Brush 6 (two), Ambulance 69 (four), Ambulance 68 (four), Command 6 with assistant fire chief (6A) and Car 6 with deputy chief (6C)
• Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department – Engine 21 (five), Tower 2 (four) and Chief 2
• Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department – Engine 52 (six), Tanker 5 (two) and deputy chief (5B)
• North Beach Volunteer Fire Department – Engine 12 (five) and assistant chief (1A)
• Saint Leonard Volunteer Fire Department – Tanker 7 (three)
Approximately 15 minutes after interior firefighting operations were initiated, conditions rapidly deteriorated on the second floor as the main body of heavy fire in the attic and void spaces dropped down on operating personnel. This rapid change in conditions forced an emergency evacuation of the second floor.