An editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — When a tractor trailer erupted into flames last week inside of East River Mountain Tunnel, what could have been a horrific, two-state tragedy was averted through the coordinated response of our local fire firefighters, police officers, state troopers, deputies, rescue squad officials and other emergency personnel. All of those brave men and women deserve our praise and applause for their heroic efforts.
The scene outside of the tunnel was reminiscent of a big-screen disaster movie. All that could be seen by the naked eye was a massive cloud of black smoke billowing out of the tunnel. Two firefighters from Bluefield’s No. 3 Station on Cumberland Road were the first to make the initial assault through the total darkness of the soot and smoke-filled tunnel as they slid their arms along the catwalk wall on their journey back to the light. Visibility inside of the tunnel was zero, according to firefighters on scene. But Darrin Haynes and Josh Parks were soon joined by a number of other firefighters, police officers, rescue squad personnel and other EMS officials from across the region — and from both West Virginia and Virginia — in responding to this massive two-state emergency.
Miraculously there were no civilian casualties. And we attribute that to the efforts of our local EMS officials, as well as the East River Mountain Tunnel and Virginia Department of Transportation crews who worked quickly to evacuate the tunnel. Getting everyone out of the tunnel quickly and safely was the first priority for the tunnel and VDOT crews.
It was the first time since 1993 that a vehicle had caught fire inside of East River Mountain Tunnel. And we are proud to report that our local firefighters, law enforcement officers and rescue squad officials were adequately prepared for this major emergency. In fact, regional emergency responders had just met in Wytheville in June to discuss an emergency response that was eerily similar to what had occurred in the East River Mountain Tunnel last Friday.
During the emergency planning session in June, area EMS crews responded to a scenario that involved a northbound truck with a turbocharger fire inside of East River Mountain Tunnel as well as a significant traffic accident at the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel, according to Green Valley-Glenwood Volunteer Fire Chief David Thompson. That training obviously came in handy last week.
The two-state response to this local emergency was nothing short of amazing…