Wildfires take toll on firefighters

By Laura Geller - bio | email

LOUISA, VA (WWBT) – Firefighters, who spent days wrangling a raging inferno in Louisa County, are finally able to take a break.  The brutal battle against the flames took a toll on residents, property, resources and the people who protected them all.

Four days after flames devoured a thousand acres in Louisa, signs of a hard fought battle are everywhere.  The earth is black and charred.  The air is still thick with the stench of smoke.  The faces of firefighters are finally able to relax with tired relief. Tom Runnett works for the Mineral Fire and Virginia Forestry Departments.

"You're running on nothing but adrenaline, especially after you get after hour 10 or 11 or 12," he said.  "You've gotta make a difference and you know if you stop you're not making a difference."

Emergency personnel truly understood the people they were trying to help.

"The Chopping Road fire was within a couple blocks of my home," Runnett explained.  "So you've always got that in the back of your mind thinking what's going on at the house right now."

Runnett told NBC12 there were moments of sheer terror as they raced against the clock to save the 300 homes in the fire's potentially devastating path.

"It's just like how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time," he said.

It was an emotional race they lost only once.

All that's left of one home one Route 522 is a charred skeleton.  In the rubble, you can see one of firefighter's toughest battles.  When do they pull back? When do they say you know what, there's nothing left we can do to save this home?

Lt. Delbert Feaster was the man in charge of making that call.

"When I made that decision, the fire was coming up over top the fire trucks," he said.  "You gotta weigh on the side of if we don't make that decision what will we lose?"

Days later, some of these firefighters are just now able to take the time to try to relax and re-energize before the next call.

"They were beat," Feaster said.  "They are beat at the end of one of those days."

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