It seems to be a common theme in life — we all go about our daily business, scarcely giving any thought to local firefighters, police, or other EMS folks, until something bad happens. It might be a medical emergency, an urgent need for police, or a house or business on fire.
At that moment, the good people from EMS and law enforcement suddenly become among the most important people in your universe.
We here at The Mount Airy News include ourselves in that number now, after the marvelous job our local firefighters did in containing a blaze that destroyed the former “rope factory” between us and Old North State Winery.
As a news agency that routinely has contact with the local fire departments, especially the one here in Mount Airy, we like to think of ourselves as a bit atypical, in that we have some constant awareness of not only the existence of the departments but of their vital importance to the community.
Yet, no amount of knowledge can replace the understanding of what they do when you actually need the fire department, when you have the potential to lose so much to a fire.
Monday morning, all of us here learned just how stressful it can be to come close to falling victim to a fire, and how thankful we are to have such highly trained, committed individuals working for the Mount Airy Fire Department and the numerous volunteer fire departments throughout the county — and even into the Cana area of Virginia.
When the call initially went out that there was a blaze downtown, firefighters were on the scene fighting the fire within three minutes. Within a half hour, Fire Chief Zane Poindexter had not only his entire department deployed around the fire, but he had integrated a number of volunteer fire departments into a well-organized attack against the blaze.
While smoke billowed into the sky, he and his colleagues had quickly positioned four ladder trucks around the blaze, taken up various stations to attack the fire from the ground, and set up an aid station where the firefighters were required to go periodically to re-hydrate and get a break from the intense heat of the day.
This fire was close to being a much larger disaster. The Mount Airy News building is just feet from the burned structure. Some burning debris from the fire landed on our roof, a collapsing wall crashed against our building. Old North State Winery, on the other side of the rope factory, is even closer to the structure than The News.
Yet the fire fighters were able to keep the fire from spreading, from doing any significant damage to either Old North State or The Mount Airy News, and had the raging, out-of-control blaze largely under control within a couple of hours of first arrival, and essentially extinguished with a couple of more hours.
Our collective hearts go out to Ben Webb, the owner of the building that was destroyed (as well as owner of Old North State Winery) — losing anything to a fire can be devastating — but we were all fortunate this wasn’t a much larger disaster, that the entire block wasn’t up in flames.
And we have the well-trained and committed fire fighters of our community to thank for that.
Those fire departments who were on site, or who were on standby for other fires, included the Mount Airy Fire Department and Cana, Virginia, Volunteer Fire Department, as well as the volunteer fire departments from Bannertown, Mountain Park, Franklin, Four Way, White Plains, South Surry, Pine Ridge, Pilot Knob, Central Surry, Westfield and Dobson.