Firefighter’s death 30 yrs. ago sparked safety changes

Posted at 11:43 PM, Mar 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-19 23:45:58-04

PETERSBURG, Va.(WTVR) -They gathered to remember, many unable to forget.

Thirty years have now passed since 29-year-old Mike Goff died.

Goff, a sergeant with the Petersburg Fire Department, was one of dozens battling a fire that threatened to burn all of downtown.

A series of explosions rocked the building at the corner of Franklin and Sycamore Streets, and the three story building collapsed.

In the process more than 20 firefighters and police officers were injured and Sgt. Mike Goff couldn't be found.

In fact, it would be hours later until his body was found under the rubble.

In the years that past, those who fought that fire haven't forgotten his sacrifice.

On this 30th anniversary, more than one hundred firefighters and EMS workers from central Virginia gathered to remember Goff.

In the days and weeks that followed after his death in 1982, changes began to take place.

As the emotional scars healed, and time went on, more and more training began to take place.

Advanced equipment was purchased and Petersburg firefighters began to train with firefighters from other areas.

The day after the fire, then city manager Jack Bond said the city came close to losing the downtown strip, and that it was mutual aid and neighboring departments that kept that from happening.

That cooperation is now stronger than ever, as fire departments understand the need to work with each other.

Accountability, a system to know who the firefighters on scene are and where they are, was also put in place.

A personal alarm, now incorporated into a firefighters air pack, will send a loud audible alert, if the firefighter was to go down and stay motionless, allowing others to find him or her quickly.

A special bag, containing 60 minutes worth of air, a mask, regulator and rope are ready at a moment’s notice, if a firefighter became trapped inside a building.

Training and the right tools to do the job, continue to keep firefighters save on the job.

Monday morning, as a bell tolled in memory of Mike Goff's line of duty death, a plaque was unveiled, that will be mounted on the building, near where he fell.

It’s a tribute to a man, whose memory burns too brightly to be forgotten.