Undersupported hampered response to restaurant fire in Crystal City, unions say
No one was injured in last weekend’s blaze at Crystal City’s 23rd Street restaurant row – local firefighters say understaffing hampered the emergency response.
A week after a two-alarm fire in the row of restaurants on 23rd Street in Crystal City, Arlington, Va., Local firefighters said understaffing resulted in fewer first responders on the scene than the emergency required.
No one was injured in the fire on Saturday night in the 500 block of 23rd Street South, in the building where the Andalusia hookah bar and Top Thai restaurant are located. The blaze caused $ 1.8 million in damage, according to Arlington Fire and EMS.
However, in a joint statement from the unions representing the Arlington and Alexandria firefighters, the understaffing in the Alexandria department puts the public and firefighters at risk.
“The initial call should have had a minimum of 12 firefighters dispatched for tasks such as setting up ladders, forced entry and search and rescue. Instead, there were only 8 dispatched, ”Brian Lynch, president of the union representing the Arlington firefighters, said in the press release.
“The two businesses were busy when the fire started, fortunately there were no multiple injuries, nor firefighters who could not save themselves.”
According to unions, engine companies and rescue companies have different responsibilities at fire scenes.
Engine builders put out fires, brought water and hoses. During commercial fires, like the one in Crystal City, rescue companies are typically tasked with removing security from buildings that prevent access, as well as looking for people who may be trapped in the blaze.
“It came to a head last Saturday when the South Arlington-based relief company was unable to respond immediately to the Crystal City fire as it was already responding to another fire call in Alexandria City. “, according to the joint statement.
Further rescue assistance has been requested from Fairfax County.
“Fortunately, firefighters on the scene of other functions such as EMS or rescuing trapped firefighters were able to help during some fire operations. But we shouldn’t be relying on that, ”Lynch said.
The OMCP is seeking comments from the Alexandria Fire Department on the union’s comments on last week’s blaze.
The city has previously commented on staffing issues voiced by unions: “The city recognizes that the stressed labor market has contributed to the staffing issues at the Alexandria Fire Department. As a result, the City has instituted, like some of its neighbors, a dynamic staffing which establishes work shifts according to the availability of firefighters and doctors.
The city said it plans to fill around 60 vacancies by the first quarter of 2022.
“We are playing Russian roulette and hope nothing goes wrong,” according to the union’s joint statement.