Firefighters from Charles County, Maryland are telling a different story about their actions at a September 20 house fire across the Potomac River in King George County, Virginia. On Thursday there was a town hall meeting covered by Fredericksburg.com where citizens complained and fire officials agreed that the fire was mismanaged and the conduct of the firefighters was “atrocious”. In her original article reporter Cathy Dyson wrote, “some firefighters danced around and played on a rescue stretcher, gave each other high-fives and rode a pink scooter across the lawn.”
Dyson has now talked with firefighters from Charles County. Here are excerpts from her latest story:
“King George did not have adequate staff and manpower to put in the right places like we did,” said Clifton Butler, volunteer assistant chief at Newburg Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department in Charles County. “When we got there, we went to work and did what we were supposed to do.”
Jason Moore, fire chief of LaPlata Volunteer Fire Department, said his unit was dispatched 30 minutes after the first trucks responded. He expected to help with cleanup and was surprised that the fire was still raging.
“That thing should have been well out by then,” he said, adding his ladder truck probably got to the scene 50 minutes after the first units arrived. “It was chaotic, to say it lightly, from the simple matter of who’s in charge, who’s calling the shots.”
Butler said firemen may have slapped a few high-fives when the fire was out, to show they were glad the situation was handled and no one got hurt.
“But there was no horseplay,” he said.
He said no one from King George was doing anything while the Maryland firefighters worked.
“We took a lot of our pieces to come over and protect the citizens of Dahlgren because we know they needed it,” Butler said.
Moore, from LaPlata, was “personally offended” that King George would place blame publicly instead of talking about the issue privately, among the departments involved.
“You don’t put your dirty laundry out on the street,” Moore said. “I’m not gonna spit in your yard, don’t spit in mine.”
Neighbor Don Diehl said he lives nine houses down and went to the fire scene at least half an hour after the first trucks got there. He didn’t go earlier because he was watching Monday night football.
“What I saw was an orchestrated effort to put the fire out,” said Diehl. “That would be my judgement as a layman.”