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Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department firefighters Chris Bailey and Eddie Brock proudly show a plaque from Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, awarded to Chuckatuck VFD for the assistance it rendered during last October’s peanut warehouse fire.
Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department firefighters Chris Bailey and Eddie Brock proudly show a plaque from Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, awarded to Chuckatuck VFD for the assistance it rendered during last October’s peanut warehouse fire.

CVFD earns recognition

Published 9:24pm Monday, February 3, 2014

Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department volunteers are appreciative of the gesture after counterparts in Courtland presented them with a plaque recognizing their assistance during last year’s fire at a peanut warehouse in Southampton County.

Thanking the department for its “hard work and dedication” during the fire at the Hancock Peanut Company warehouse on Merherrin Road from Oct. 9 through Oct. 12, the plaque from Courtland Volunteer Fire Department was presented to the Chuckatuck volunteers by their department’s president, Brad Whitley, during a regular monthly meeting Jan. 29.

“It’s very nice to be recognized for the time that our members invested in it,” said Jacob Johnson, vice president of the Chuckatuck department. “It was a very nice show of appreciation. We were very glad that we were able to help as much as we did and in the way that we did.”

The department has a mutual aid agreement with Isle of Wight County, but not with Southampton. Nevertheless, when Southampton County requested assistance, the Chuckatuck volunteers sprang into action.

“The powers that be in Southampton County called us initially and said that they wanted the tanker,” Johnson said.

“The tanker” is Chuckatuck’s 3,000-gallon Tanker 9 — fairly unusual by dint of its large capacity. Johnson said tankers at other fire departments in the area generally have capacities ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 gallons.

“We told them we were more than happy, but they needed to come through the proper channels with the city of Suffolk,” Johnson continued.

Once authorization was in place, an initial crew of two hit the road in the high-capacity tanker shortly after 3 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Three crews of two rotated through the operation period, Chuckatuck VFD Assistant Chief Travis Dortch said at the time, and the tanker was kept on the job for 24 hours before being relieved by Holland Volunteer Fire Department at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department also assisted.

It wasn’t the first time the department had responded to a peanut fire, Johnson said. He cited previous blazes involving the legume in downtown Suffolk “years and years ago,” and said Tanker 9 has previously responded to one in North Carolina.

“This particular fire itself, it wasn’t a big fire in terms of volume,” he said. But because of the smoke and the fact it was taking place inside a warehouse, the blaze was “difficult to assess.”

The fire smoldered persistently, Johnson said. He described it as an “ants’ nest” situation, with new sections of smoldering peanuts breaking out as soon as others were extinguished.

“It was a very complex and difficult fire, as far as it goes,” he said.

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