Three children died.
The tones sounded dispatching Petersburg Bravest, but the tragic fire already had its wicked claws sunk deep in the structure at 684 Pegram St. The dedicated firefighters were to face their second gut-wrenching fatal fire in a year.
It was Nov. 28. Shortly after 1 a.m., tones sounded the alert and summoned the firefighters. As more information came into dispatch, the news was not good, the entire city of Petersburg's crews were dispatched.
"First on scene reported heavy fire showing," said Petersburg Battalion Chief Steve Bowling. " The front of the house was totally engulfed and couldn't be seen through the flames."
The situation went from bad to worse.
Two adults outside said children were inside and on the second floor. The second floor was engulfed, the stairs had burned through and collapsed. I called for more resources, " Chief Bowling explained, "and discovering that victims were trapped inside requested multiple ALS ambulances, I wanted one ambulance per victim so each could receive undivided care. The situation seemed nearly impossible, we went around back to attempt entry, that was not possible.
As fast as we could place ladders,that became our mode for firefighting, Bowling continued. The home was wrapped by ladders. One ladder was placed at the rear window where the children were. Firefighters climbed up the ladder through flames to attempt a rescue. Ground crews held a hose on the firefighter poised on the ladder to beat back the fire, the firefighter's gear was smoldering as he attempted entry for the rescue.
As smoke rose from the firefighter's helmet and coat, a window air conditioner was removed
The unthinkable had occurred, Bowling solemnly said. When the truck company crew entered the window they discovered the victims. A 16 year-old mother and her six month-old son along with a seven-year-old perished in the blaze.
The firefighting operation itself went well, Bowling recounted, there were no water supply delays at all.
Mutual aid jurisdictions who responded included Chesterfield,Colonial-Heights and Fort Lee. The Red Cross assisted at the scene.
The cause is under investigation.