Neighbors volunteer their help

Published 9:30 pm Friday, October 11, 2013

Neighbors helping neighbors. That’s the spirit of volunteerism, and it defines the spirit of fire departments, especially volunteer ones.

That neighborly spirit has been on display in Courtland this week, as firefighters from around Western Tidewater — including members of three different Suffolk departments — answered the call to provide mutual aid to the tiny Courtland Volunteer Fire Department as it has battled a blaze at the Hancock Peanut Co. warehouse.

Squads from Chuckatuck, Whaleyville and Holland have spent time at the scene, just outside the Courtland town limits, since Tuesday, and Suffolk Fire & Rescue helped out by sending its rehab bus, which gives firefighters a place to recuperate during incidents, and backfilled the Courtland department by sending an engine to stand in at their station house in case it was needed elsewhere.

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Mostly Suffolk’s crews at Hancock spent their time filling their tanker trucks from a hydrant located five miles from the fire and then delivering that water to a temporary holding pool near the fire. Chuckatuck’s crew of six worked in shifts through the first 24 hours after arriving on the scene, and a department official posted on the fire company’s Facebook page that its tanker was one of 25 from Virginia and North Carolina assisting the Courtland crew at the fire.

Chuckatuck’s Tanker 9, alone, hauled about 165,000 gallons in 55 loads, Assistant Chief Travis Dortch estimated on Thursday. That’s long, hard work, and it continued when Holland relieved the Chuckatuck crew and again when Whaleyville’s firefighters joined the effort.

In the case of both Chuckatuck and Whaleyville, at least, the firefighting support efforts — both in Courtland and back at home, where others stepped in to fill potential service gaps — were accomplished entirely by volunteers.

Members of the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad received a black eye this summer, when Suffolk Fire & Rescue Chief Cedric Scott demoted the volunteers to second-run status in their coverage area, citing — among other things — an incident when it was alleged the volunteers were unable to fully staff their shift.

This week’s show of commitment and dedication by volunteers from Suffolk on behalf of their firefighting brethren in Courtland, as well as the citizens of Southampton County, is a great example of the kind of attitude that makes volunteers such a valuable part of the emergency services community in a place like Suffolk.

Similar attitudes are surely a hallmark of the volunteers who have served the NSVRS.