Despite minimal resources, local departments successfully respond to flames

By Katie Demeria

Fires this past weekend stretched the resources of local fire departments thin, but with the help of both career staff and volunteers, most substantial damage was avoided.

Flames at Zero Pak in Winchester began around 12:30 p.m. Friday and required assistance from departments throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley, as well as from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, according to a Winchester City news release.

The scene was not entirely cleared until around 6 p.m. Saturday. The damage to the building was minimal, the release reported.

A chicken house fire on Senedo Road in Shenandoah County on Friday required the attention of many crews within the county, fire and rescue Operations Chief Tim Williams said. It took about two hours to contain and overlapped with the Zero Pak fire.

Then on Saturday, crews battled a blaze at a residence in Middletown.

“Any system is taxed when you give up resources long term,” Williams said. “I don’t think there are any fire and rescue systems locally that have the depth that they would like to have in terms of resources — which includes both career and volunteer.

“When you have to utilize those resources, it straps the entire area.”

The Middletown fire began around 2 p.m. Saturday at 2491 Cypress Way. It only took about 15 minutes to extinguish most of the flames, according to a Frederick County Fire and Rescue news release.

The fire damaged about 75 percent of the house, the release stated.

Crews from Middletown, Stephens City, Millwood Station, Frederick County Battalion 10 Duty Officer, the Frederick County Fire Marshal’s office, and departments from Warren and Shenandoah counties assisted on the scene.

According to Chris Scott, executive director of the Top of Virginia chapter of the American Red Cross, the family of two adults and three children received assistance from the organization, including money for food, clothing and lodging for three nights.

Lt. Wes Kibler of Strasburg Fire Department was on scene at the Zero Pak fire from 4:30 p.m. Friday until 5:30 a.m. Saturday before helping to extinguish the Middletown flames later in the afternoon Saturday, as well.

“We were tired, but we’re kind of used to that, because we do this a lot,” Kibler said.

None of the Strasburg volunteers, he added, have ever responded to a four-alarm fire like at Zero Pak, in which so many departments from various areas also responded.

“I just think that everybody did a great job that was there,” he said. “Everything ran smoothly and, for being so depleted of resources, I think everybody did a fabulous job.”

Williams said organization and good communication are key when facing so many fires in the span of only a few days.

“The advantage of all this going on over a weekend is typically you do have those volunteer resources that you don’t have Monday through Friday,” he said. “If this ever does have to happen, happening on a weekend is definitely a good thing.

“Everything went fine,” he added. ‘It’s tough when you’re down to the bare minimums, but everyone stepped up to the plate and took care of it.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com