HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The State Department of Labor and Industry has opened an investigation into the Hampton Fire Department following their response to an apartment fire that left eight firefighters injured.
The fire started around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 21 at the Township in Hampton Woods apartments on Marcella Road. Less than two hours later, it was marked under control. Approximately 50 residents were displaced and four residents including a child were taken to area hospitals.
The injured firefighters all sustained minor to moderate burns but were released from their respective hospitals within a couple of days.
In a release sent out Thursday, the fire department claimed they were operating fully within the procedural and staffing guidelines laid out by the National Fire Protection Association.
It noted that the division is accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International and holds a top rating from the Insurance Services Offices, which ranks how well communities are prepared to respond to fires and emergencies.
In an apparent response to claims made by the union representing the firefighters stating that staffing issues may have made it harder for first responders, the department noted that they have to walk the line between being able to keep the community safe as well as “being fiscally responsible stewards of the citizen’s tax dollars.”
“Applicant and staffing shortages due to a variety of reasons, pandemic fall-out, an increased call volume, and other factors all place a level of stress on all resources,” they continued. “However, the City Council and city leadership prioritize public safety and the safety of its employees and the division continues to ensure that the citizens we serve receive the service they deserve.”
On the night of the fire, the department says it was not short-staffed, meeting its required minimum staffing requirement of 64. By the time fire crews rolled out from the scene, 67 fire and EMS personnel had responded to the blaze.
Fire departments have staffing guidelines for how they respond to fires of certain sizes. According to the standard laid out by the NFPA’s “1710” code, “the initial full alarm assignment to a structure fire in a typical 1200 ft2 (111 m2) apartment within a three-story, garden-style apartment building should provide for a minimum of 27 members.”
The department says they adhered to this, with a 25-person response on the initial dispatch, and the quick addition of a safety officer and additional medic unit bringing the total responding units up to 28. All arrived within 10 minutes of being contacted by the dispatcher.
The release also notes that the first arriving company wasn’t operating their normal response vehicle as it was down for mechanical issues.
Fire departments around the country have been adapting to pandemic-era supply chain delays that have made it harder to get certain parts and new vehicles in general.
“Before the pandemic, an engine could be built in under one year,” the release notes. “Due to supply chain challenges cited by manufacturers, it now takes nearly double that time.”
The department says it has two fire engines, a ladder truck and six ambulances that are now nearing build completion.