June 17, 2005
Safety is the #1 concern for firefighters as they approach their job each and every day. Local firefighters will take an entire day devoted to job safety. This is a nationwide drive joining all fire departments in an effort to make their jobs just a little bit safer.
Being a firefighter means putting your life on the line each day you come to work. Every firefighter who takes the job realizes those risks. However, next Tuesday, firefighters across the country are going to "stand down" for safety. That entire day will be dedicated towards making their profession as safe as possible.
"We will focus on training for that day and the focus of that training will be firefighter safety," said Battalion Chief Raymond James of the Charlottesville Fire Department.
The "stand down" is a military concept used when something wrong has been identified and needs to be fixed. The problems facing the nation's fire companies is an increase in the line of duty deaths.
"We've got one of the most dangerous professions around. We have shown that the number of fatalities related to the number of fires has not decreased at all, in fact, [they] have increased," said Chief J. Dan Eggelston of the Albemarle Fire Department.
As of May 1st, there have been 50 line of duty deaths in the United States. That number is 25 percent higher than this same time last year. Local fire officials will take this time to train on many things including incident and driving safety, and personal safety like nutrition and fitness.
"Last year we got a huge federal grant for a fitness wellness program that we are going to launch this year. It is going to address physical conditioning as well as nutrition and mental health," said Eggelston.
So, what will this mean for people in the area if they have an emergency?
"We won't reduce any responses. We will respond to anytime there is a call [to respond] in this town. The Charlottesville Fire Department will respond," said James.
At this point, Virginia has had no firefighter fatalities. The last fatality was in September of 2004, when a Salem firefighter died after suffering from a heart attack.
Albemarle firefighters will train Tuesday, June 21, while Charlottesville will train Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, responding only to emergencies during that time.