Fire destroys wheelchair transport van

By Joe Beck

A fire destroyed a Valley Health wheelchair van Tuesday while it was parked outside the Northwestern Community Service building near the intersection of Skyline Vista Drive and West Criser Road in Front Royal.

Chief Richard E. Mabie of Warren County Fire and Rescue Services said no one was injured.

“To my knowledge, the only person on board was the driver who discovered the fire,” Mabie said. “By the time we got there, the engine compartment was fully involved and extending to the rest of the van.”

Mabie said the driver reported “some problems with the exhaust system” prior to the fire breaking out in the 2009 Ford van. The extensive damage to the engine makes it hard to identify what caused the fire to start, Mabie said.

Stephen Dean, director of Valley Health Medical Transport, said the van was parked outside the front of the Northwestern building at the time the fire started. The van had been sent to pick up a patient who was to be taken home from the facility.

Dean said the van is one of 33 ambulances and wheelchair vans Valley Health uses to conduct 26,000 rides a year while covering 1.6 million miles over three states.

Dean described the incident as a “very rare occurrence” and the Ford van model as normally “very reliable.”

“We inspect these vehicles on a daily basis to make sure they’re safe,” Dean said.

Dean said the 156,000 miles on the van was not an unusually high number on the kind of vehicle that often runs up to 300,000 or 400,000 miles while in the Valley Health fleet.

Dean said another transport vehicle was sent to Northwestern to pick up the patient after the fire.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com