Petersburg Fire Records show years-long pattern of unkempt equipment maintenance

Petersburg Fire Records show years-long pattern of unkempt equipment maintenance
Posted at 10:06 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 23:31:57-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- New records obtained by the CBS6 Problem Solvers team show a years-long pattern of unkempt equipment maintenance of the Petersburg Fire Department.

The new information comes as the Fire Department is continuing to come under fire by members of their own community.

The Petersburg Professional Firefighters Association said the department is currently without a ladder truck. Without that truck, they said they can’t get to elevated spaces to reach certain people that could be trapped.

The association said the ladder truck has been out of service for nearly two months. Prior to that, the firefighters association said the truck was in and out of service for quite some time.

“Relying on mutual aid is at best reckless,” said James Vick, the President of Petersburg Professional Firefighters Association.

The ladder truck is not the only equipment trouble the department is experiencing.

At the end of April, CBS6 reported the department only had two working engines. Experts said three engines are the protocol for service calls. Sources told CBS6 it forced them to rely on aid from other counties.

The CBS6 Problem Solvers team put in a Freedom of Information Request to see the department's pending work orders.

That request yielded 218 active work orders for the department as of May 2022. Those work orders are all different equipment issues that have not been resolved as of when the file was pulled.

Roughly a quarter of those work orders are classified as major repairs by the department. Of those 218 active work orders pulled, nearly half are outstanding from years past.

Documents show the department has had four outstanding work orders since 2019 and 15 since 2020. There are also 81 outstanding orders from last year.

CBS6 also obtained an email between the fire chief and the man who identifies in the email as overseeing repairs.

In the May 2022 email, he states he expressed concern to his supervisor about unpaid invoices.

“My concern that’s if we continued the same course of action of unpaid invoices that at some point be placed on a hold for any further repairs from Atlantic, as we have had to happen in the past,” he said.

He said he was being proactive in saying that to avoid creating issues for the department next year if the unpaid bills would have to come out of the next year's budget.

The City of Petersburg told CBS6 at the end of April that all unpaid invoices had been paid.

CBS6 reached out to try to sit down with Petersburg Fire Chief Tina Watkins who has been in the role and with the department since January of this year.

CBS6 was the inquiring status of the department's operations she walked into then, and what she is finding is holding up all of these unresolved repairs.

Chief Watkins was not able to interview at all this week. CBS6 sent questions via email for a statement response.

However, the city said they would not be able to fill that request this week.

The Petersburg Professional Firefighters Association calls on city leaders for answers after they said the department is plagued with maintenance issues.

CBS6 is continuing to reach out to the department for a sit-down interview on this topic.