Deadly fire spurs calls for new equipment for the Smith Mountain Lake Rescue Squad

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BEDFORD COUNTY (WSLS 10) – Following a deadly fire Monday at Smith Mountain Lake, the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad is taking a look at ways to prevent it from happening again.

They’re asking the lake’s surrounding counties for help funding new equipment and a new building to improve response times.

Fire Chief John Honaker says it took 22 minutes to respond to the fire Monday, and in an emergency, he says that’s just too long.

That’s why the department is asking for two new water crafts and a new firehouse to bring the crews closer to the people they serve.

Smith Mountain Fire and Rescue President Tom Lovegrove and Fire Chief John Honaker patrolled the lake Wednesday.

A day of calm in what Honaker says has been a busy season.

“We’ve had more activity this fall and up until now than we’ve had in many years,” said Honaker.

That activity includes a house fire two days ago that got out of control and killed one person.

“It’s just hard to understand or adjust to something like that… there’s times that people will hold onto that for a long time,” said Honaker.

Lovegrove says it’s hard to let go because it took crews so long to respond.

One fire boat left from Crazy Horse Marina Monday, and had to travel all the way across the lake to get to the fire on Crafts Ford Court.

The trip took 22 minutes.

“Had we had stationed a boat there, we would have been there in minutes, and as you know, you lose a house typically within 15 minutes… So I think absolutely the outcome of this fire could have been tremendously different,” said Lovegrove.

That’s why now, Lovegrove and Honaker are doubling down on their request for more support from Bedford, Franklin, and Pittsylvania counties.

“We need more apparatus, we need more equipment. We need two fire boats immediately, we need a fire house. I mean you have to balance the needs with the budget and go forward,” said Lovegrove.

But balancing that budget is where the difficulty comes in.

Each fire boat ranges from three to four hundred thousand dollars a piece, and to house them, the squad has designs for a new fire house, that would go on land the squad already owns off of Coast Guard Court.

“We don’t have a station, we just have an office and a meeting room at the lake association office and we’ve got 40 some members now and it’s just not enough room,” said Honaker.

Unfortunately, this request isn’t new.

We reported back in January when the plans for the firehouse were first being drawn up, but Lovegrove and Honaker say they hope this recent tragedy will help spur people into action.

Lovegrove says the squad has already met with the County Administrator from Franklin County and he hopes that they can soon bring their request to all 21 supervisors in the lake’s surrounding counties.

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