The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 5, 2013

Beckley fire chief: ‘2012 was full of the unordinary’

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— After compiling the 2012 annual fire report, Beckley Fire Chief Billie Trump said 2012 was a year “full of the unordinary.”

A major uptown fire, a series of summer storms that left thousands without electricity, and a rare October snowstorm were just a few of the obstacles 2012 presented for the Beckley Fire Department.

“Through it all, the members of the Beckley Fire Department stood fast,” Trump said. “In the face of unprecedented events and adversity, the members of the Beckley Fire Department put the citizens of Beckley and City of Beckley first and provided all needed services.”  

The year started off with a Jan. 2 uptown fire, which caused an estimated loss in excess of $1 million. The report said the extreme cold, coupled with a constant 10-mile-per-hour wind, created the worst possible scenario for firefighting.

Even though the weather was difficult and the firefighters were exhausted, the department said their efforts were successful, as the fire was contained to the two buildings involved and adjacent structures were saved.

Then at the end of June, the fire department was put to the test yet again, as a derecho swept through the area and much of the state, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity.

The winds downed many trees and obstructed multiple roadways, and an oppressive heat set in the area for the next several days.

Beckley Fire Department not only assisted in clearing roadways, but also helped to address cooling and hydration needs of those in the city.

Before the year ended, the fire crew had one final challenge from Mother Nature — a snowstorm in October so fierce it was dubbed “Frankenstorm.”

No matter the catastrophe, Beckley Fire Department overcame the challenges it faced.

One challenge, however, — the passage of the Raleigh County fire levy — was left up to the residents.

Thankfully they pulled through, allowing the departments in the county to receive much needed funding.

The levy will be in effect for the next five years and will help departments replace old, unsafe and obsolete equipment.

The 2012 fire report outlines the items that will be purchased, including a rescue truck and a UTV, as well as the cost for each.

The report also states that 1,295 calls were received, with the majority coming in July at 168.

The largest number of fires were reported in Ward 3, and the largest percentage of fires were building fires.

According to the report, the busiest time of day was between 5 and 6 p.m.

Beckley Fire Department’s mission is “to protect the lives and property of the citizens of Beckley and all that visit our city.”

Although the department tries to prevent emergencies, when there is an emergency situation, they strive to respond quickly, efficiently and effectively.

This report will allow fire crews to examine the events over the year and determine how to better prepare in the future.

In 2012, many firefighters attended specialized training courses, including chain saw training, bloodborne pathogens, tower rescue, carbon dioxide, thermal imaging, how to search private dwellings, rope rescue and firefighter survival.

Capt. Kevin Price left to become the Raleigh County fire administrator for the county fire levy, and Firefighter 1st Class Jimmy Wills retired but passed away later in the year after battling cancer.

New hires for the year include Andrew Garland, J.D. Perry and Mark Braskey.

Lt. Johnny Mann was selected as the 2012 Firefighter of the Year.

His A-Shift crew nominated Mann, saying he “served exceptionally well as station lieutenant.”

“He has been very helpful and hospitable to all visitors who utilize our training facility.”

His crew also said he was involved in many auto extractions that require a lot of skill and proper technique.

Billie Trump’s first full year as Beckley fire chief certainly was not an easy one, but he said he is proud of his department.

“I am both honored and humbled to be associated with this fine city and particularly this dedicated and competent organization.”

— E-mail: