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Emergency services on duty around the clock

When Lower Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department fire chief Jimmy Walden saw Zoar Baptist Church in ruins Saturday night, he immediately called for backup from the Hartfield Volunteer Fire Department and the Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department in Urbanna.

The Middlesex Sheriff’s Mobile Command Center was set up at the Deltaville Firehouse, and Walden asked veteran firefighter Paul Murray to take command.

A Dominion Virginia Power supervisor arrived about 8 p.m. to assess the damage. Crews shut off electricity from the Galley Restaurant east until firefighters searched the damaged area.

Walden called firefighters to the firehouse and divided the area into three sections. Firefighters searched through the night for injured, first by going through neighborhoods, and a second time by going door-to-door and looking in vehicles. About 1 a.m. the Virginia State Police brought a search and rescue dog to sniff the debris for survivors.

Many firefighters stayed on scene until 3 a.m. Sunday, then came back after a few hours of rest. Eight firefighters stayed on the scene all night and the rescue squad remained on standby, said Walden.

The Deltaville and Hartfield fire department auxiliaries provided food and drinks for the firefighters and emergency crews. The Red Cross provided 70 meals for victims.

On Sunday morning six more State Police dogs started searching. Three were trained to find survivors, the other three dogs sniffed for the smell of death. Miraculously, there were no injuries.

Walden called for heavy equipment and VDOT responded, as did three private companies, including Vaughan Haywood, William H. Wright and Joey Jones. By 10 p.m. they had cleared paths through much of the fallen tree debris. “Route 33 had been almost impassable,” said Walden.

At about 3:30 a.m., Middlesex Sheriff Guy Abbott and Walden flew over the area in a State Police helicopter. Five state troopers were stationed to assist Middlesex deputies. “We used a lot of resources and it worked very well,” said Walden.

Carlton Revere, a member of the Middlesex Board of Supervisors and a veteran firefighter, remained on the scene to assist. “It was very helpful having a (county) supervisor with fire training at the command center,” said Walden. “He could see what we needed. We didn’t let him go home until 4 or 5 o’clock.”

Revere said he discussed the emergency situation with the Virginia Emergency Operations Center, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management sent personnel to Deltaville early Sunday.

Route 33 was open to vehicles on Sunday, but only from 6 to 9:30 a.m. until traffic from onlookers clogged the roads. “It took us 15 minutes to go two miles on a fire call,” said Walden. “I wouldn’t be surprised if 700 vehicles didn’t go through here Sunday morning, rubbernecking… they had plenty to look at.”

posted 04.20.2011

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