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County crew returns from massive wildfire battle

Massive wildfires have consumed more than 20,000 acres in Southwest Virginia this week.

 

In Rockbridge County alone at least 1,159 acres burned in the “Easter Complex” wildfire, according to Halifax County Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders.

More than 400 personnel from across the state and nation were called in to assist after local resources were quickly exhausted.

Four volunteer firefighters from Halifax County including Daniel Martin of Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Department, Chad Pillow, Kenny Wynn and Hunter Swift with North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department answered the call to assist Wednesday afternoon, Saunders said.

Halifax County Emergency Services received three statewide mutual aid requests on Wednesday — the first two requesting assistance with apparatus and the last, from 
Rockbridge County, requesting personnel.

Due to concerns over local wildfire conditions, local departments were unable to commit apparatus.

However, three firefighters from North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department and one from Scottsburg Volunteer Fire Department answered the request for personnel.

After completing the necessary paperwork on Thursday morning, the crew departed for a staging location in Rockbridge County around noon. The group of four was led by Firefighter Wynn from North Halifax Volunteer Fire Department.

“It didn’t take us long to see that this fire was massive,” said Wynn.

After meeting briefly with the volunteer chief in Rockbridge County, the crew attended several briefing meetings with other responders.

The Halifax County crew spent most of the day on Thursday creating and strengthening fire lines down steep mountain slopes in order to contain the fire as well as standing guard over several homes.

In addition to assisting neighbors they have never met, the crew also gained valuable knowledge about how to control wildfires of this size.

“We learned a lot about how to defensively fight wildfire. The way we fight small wildfires here (at home) is a lot different than there,” said Wynn.

The crew returned home on Thursday night tired but grateful for the opportunity to help. The group of all volunteers only will be reimbursed for their mileage to and from Rockbridge County.

Saunders said, “This is a true testament of the commitment, courage and sacrifice of the volunteers in Halifax County.”