RICHMOND, Va. -- Since 2017, an all-volunteer group of members had been providing on-scene rehabilitation to Richmond firefighters. Last week, the Metro Richmond Flying Squad expanded to Henrico.
Metro Richmond Flying Squad Chief Steve Korb said their goal was to provide a place for firefighters to recover and regroup before heading back into the flames.
"When they go into a fire, it’s just like a professional athlete, but they go from zero to 100 with absolutely no warning. So the stress on their bodies is enormous. Half of all firefighter fatalities happen because of stress and overexertion," said Korb.
This year, the volunteer group responded to 94 calls, setting up tents on the scene with relief and refreshments.
"Your body keeps heating up heating up, heating up which can cause cardiac issues, strokes, all kinds of disorders. So, when they come into our area, it’s a 20-minute time where they get out of that gear, especially on a hot day, let them cool down a little bit, and then they get medically evaluated to go back in," said Korb.
"Today the cancer rates are enormous with the firefighters, so we carry decon wipes, we’ll help decon their gear."
Korb said the Metro Richmond Flying Squad was on the scene Sunday during a deadly fire that took the lives of a mother and her two children and sent four people, including a firefighter, to the hospital.
"Sunday morning about 7 o'clock fire department was toned out and it turned into a triple fatality. And actually, our members, we were on scene within 21 minutes, and our members were there about 5 and a half hours that day," Korb said.
Korb said the goal was to be at every working fire in the future. He knew from personal experience how important that was.
"I started in 1977. We didn’t have anything. Back then they had steel tanks. You’d come out of the fire, you’d literally bend over, put a new tank on, go back in. You were lucky to get a glass of warm water at some point," Korb said.
As a third-generation retired firefighter, Korb started the Metro Richmond Flying Squad in 2017 with the help of the RFD Foundation.
"The first reaction out of everyone involved in the foundation was 'heck yeah, let’s make it happen,'" said Lt. David Loving with the Richmond Fire Department.
Lt. Loving said since then, the squad had had a huge impact.
"It's something that we’ve never really had in Richmond. So, to have it now, it’s awesome. You walk out, you're handed a bottled water, Gatorade, a nice clean rag to wipe your face down. Which I don't know about y’all, but it means a lot," Lt. Loving said.
Korb said their vision was to expand into the entire metro region.
"As one of our members said, once you're a firefighter, you're always a firefighter. So, it’s my way of just giving back to the men and women that are still out there doing the job," Korb said.
The Metro Richmond Flying Squad had a team of about 30 members and is looking for volunteers. Anyone interested can sign up on their website.