PETERSBURG, Va. – A retired Petersburg firefighter is speaking out over a lack of resources for his former colleagues.
Gene Beemer battled fires in the City of Petersburg for 36 years.
“It breaks my heart,” Beemer said.
Beemer said all of the city’s financial issues left the fire department gutted heading into 2017.
Among the issues are deteriorating fire trucks.
“All the reserve pieces are being used as front line pieces and they’re 30 years old,” Beemer said.
Also on their last legs, the fire department’s two ambulances, which are currently out of commission.
The Southside Virginia Emergency Crew, along with ambulances from surrounding jurisdictions, will respond in emergencies, but Beemer wonders what would happen if they’re busy with other calls?
“So there’s no EMS transportation from the fire department now which will cause a delay in patient care,” Beemer said.
Another problem, air packs that need to be replaced because they're reaching their full lifespan of 12 to 18 years.
Beemer said they break on a daily basis, and, as of January 1, there’s no technician to repair them.
“If you don’t have air packs that work you can’t go inside of a burning building, if you can’t go inside of a burning building and someone is trapped inside you’re not going to be able to save them,” he said.
On top of that, the city cut firefighter salaries by 10 percent last year.
Beemer said that resulted in 20 firefighters leaving the department, and it’s only going to get worse.
“Petersburg is going to lose some more firefighters real soon, Chesterfield just opened up hiring, Henrico just opened up hiring,” Beemer said.
We reached out to the city and the Mayor for comment, but it was later in the day and it’s a holiday so we never heard back.