By Debbie Adams
Roanoke County and Town of Vinton officials recognized public safety personnel and others involved in responding to the July 2 fire in downtown Vinton at a ceremony at the Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Station No. 2 in Vinton on August 2.
Town Manager Pete Peters welcomed the crowd which filled the bay of the fire station and included firefighters, rescue squad members, law enforcement, Public Works employees, town and county staff, and local government officials.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose delivered remarks on the disastrous event and the response of both professionals and the community to the fire.
“On July 2, 2022, the Town of Vinton suffered a tragic blow to its downtown business section and to the memories of many of our citizens,” Grose said. “An intense fire destroyed one of the more iconic buildings in our community.
“We thank God there was no loss of human life; regrettably, some pets did perish in the heartbreaking event, and there was significant loss of property.
“The fire will be long remembered as part of Vinton’s history and so will the actions of many courageous, hardworking, devoted people who responded on that tragic day. Although it was certainly a sad day, it was also a time that exposed some very positive qualities about the Vinton/Roanoke community. Every aspect of the horrific event; from the initial quick and professional response, continuing in the teamwork and cooperation that was displayed throughout the entire day, to the immediate community response, was inspiring and encouraging! Those involved seemed to know exactly what needed to be done to control the impact of the fire. Most importantly, everyone flawlessly achieved their individual roles in an important team effort.
“The Town of Vinton is truly indebted to all of those who performed so professionally and unselfishly during an extremely difficult time in our town.
“I certainly want to thank our first responders—the Fire Departments, Rescue Squad, Police Department and Public Works Department for their tireless efforts as they worked throughout the night and into the next day to contain the blaze. I also want to thank the other members of our town staff who responded and showed their support in so many ways. On behalf of the Vinton Town Council, the town staff and all our citizens, I want to personally and sincerely express our deep gratitude to everyone that participated in the response to this sad event.
“It has truly been heartwarming to see the businesses and citizens of Vinton respond to the needs of those directly impacted by the fire. Several restaurants– McDonalds, Big Belly Pizza, Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, Firehouse Subs, and Deb’s Lemonade– provided food and drinks for everyone working at the scene. Many of our citizens have donated money and clothing to help their neighbors during this terrible time.
“I’m sure that we will recover from this tragic experience, I pray all those that were affected by the fire will find comfort as we move forward together! May God continue to bless all of you!”
Jason Peters, Vinton’s representative to the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, and its vice chair, also spoke at the ceremony.
“On month ago today, many in this room were on scene working to evacuate residents, ensure the safety of the downtown area, and extinguish a fire that destroyed or damaged some of the more recognizable buildings in the heart of downtown Vinton,” Peters said. “The fire was a tragic loss for the residents who were displaced. In the end we are fortunate there was no loss of human life, though sadly several pets were lost to the fire.
“It was a long night and day for everyone involved, coupled with hot and humid weather conditions. While this fire marks a sad time for Vinton, I feel a sense of pride in the response by so many in this room who would likely say, ‘We were just doing our jobs.’
“Having served 30 years as a volunteer EMT for the Vinton First Aid Crew, I can’t emphasize enough the tremendous amount of coordination it takes in response to a fire such as this one. Between Roanoke County Fire & Rescue and staff, town administration, mutual aid fire units, and businesses located in the downtown district, it truly ‘took a village’ to respond that day.”
Peters thanked Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Chief Travis Griffith and Roanoke City Fire and EMS Chief David Hoback for the quick response of their departments, commending them as “exceptional public servants.”
He also recognized Roanoke County Building Commissioner Morgan Yates who was on scene all day, working alongside public safety staff and the Town of Vinton staff to determine the safety of the building and surrounding buildings. Unfortunately, it was determined that an emergency demolition of the structure was necessary.
“I have my own personal memories of the building,” Peters said. “As a volunteer EMT, we trained in that building, conducting table-top exercises and meetings. Without the work of so many in this room today, the fire could have taken out an entire block.”
Chief Griffith presented a timeline of the events on July 2.
“At 1:54 a.m. on July 2, a call came into the Roanoke County Communications center stating that ‘there is a building on fire with flames coming from the windows.’
“At 1:56 a.m. a Vinton police officer arrived and reported heavy fire and smoke coming from D.R. Music. Wagon 2 and Medic 23 from the Vinton Station, along with the Vinton Police Department, arrived and made the decision to split the crews to notify and evacuate residents at 103 East Lee Avenue and 206 South Pollard Street.
“At 2:01, the request was made to Roanoke City for assistance, knowing this was going to be a prolonged event and would require numerous resources.
:”By 2:11 a.m., all occupants from the nearby exposures were accounted for and were safe. This was due in part to the quick thinking and hard work of initial arriving personnel—police and fire crews. During this time, suppression efforts were being made on the D.R. Music building as well as trying to prevent fire spread to the other exposures.
“By 3:06 a.m. the decision was made to pull all personnel out of the buildings and to use ladder trucks to provide master streams for fire suppression. Fourteen minutes later there was a catastrophic collapse in the D.R. Music location as the second floor collapsed onto the first floor. Through coordinated efforts of all personnel on scene, the fire was determined to be knocked down at 5:54 a.m.
“The effort involved six fire engines, three ladder trucks, five ambulances, numerous supervisors, and 50-60 personnel.
“Regional cooperation helped make this a successful outcome with no injuries to residents or firefighters.”
Roanoke County Administrator Richard Caywood praised the county’s “outstanding public servants.”
He also commented on the importance of partnerships between local governments, like the town, Roanoke City, and Roanoke County, which “enable us to work better to serve our citizens.”
He placed special emphasis on the partnership the town and county share with the Western Virginia Water Authority. On July 1, the town’s water and sewer utility system officially transferred to the Water Authority, which turned out to be more of a blessing than anyone could have predicted.
“Phase 1 of the water system operation plan was successfully implemented in the downtown and western portions of the Town of Vinton on June 7,” Caywood said. “Vinton’s Chestnut Avenue well was turned off, shifting water supply for customers in the downtown district to a blend of water from the Craig Avenue well, Carvins Cove, and Muse Spring.
“There is no doubt that because of this transition, fire and rescue had an ample supply of water to sustain their operations of July 2. Otherwise, it is likely the water supply would have run out.”
Caywood recognized Travis Lane, Senior Manager for Capital Projects for the Water Authority who “has been working on the existing and future plans to bring Carvins Cove into the Vinton service area. Future phases of the water transition plan will include significant infrastructure projects in order to serve the entire area with water from Carvins Cove.”
Caywood also acknowledged Water Authority CEO Mike McEvoy and Director of Public Relations Sarah Baumgardner.
“This partnership with the Water Authority had a great impact on the response to this fire, as the outcome could have been significantly worse. Because water from Carvins Cove had been interconnected with the Town of Vinton and was available, we didn’t face running out of water. Fortunately, our community takes a regional approach, resulting in the best possible outcome in a bad set of circumstances.”