State cites Virginia Beach with ‘serious violations’ after controlled burn in Pungo

This structure at 2002 Princess Anne Rd. in Virginia Beach was intentionally burned by firefighters as part of a training exercise on April 15 (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Fire Department)
This structure at 2004 Princess Anne Rd. in Virginia Beach was intentionally burned by firefighters as part of a training exercise on April 15 (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Fire Department)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry issued citations to the Virginia Beach Fire Department for “serious” violations in connection with the April 15 controlled burning of a building that contained asbestos on Princess Anne Road, according to the Sept. 18 report.

Virginia Beach Fire Chief David Hutcheson said “too many people were handling the paperwork,” which lead to to an isolated lapse in oversight.

Hutcheson said he has corrected that issue by changing process and making sure other departments are involved.

The state’s report citing the city listed four citations:

  • The structure contained a small amount of asbestos in the chimney, which was not located nor removed before burning. No health issues were reported by any surrounding neighbors, bystanders, or fire fighters.
  • Two employees had not had their annual “fit test” for respirator masks that they are required to wear. Hutcheson said he has implemented a better system for tracking the annual respirator fit tests, which should fix the problem. He added that those two firefighters referenced have since completed their tests and did not report any smoke inhalation or adverse health effects from the controlled burning.
  • Two citations were issued because of firefighters not receiving annual training refreshers on hazardous materials. Hutcheson said the department has implemented yearly training updates to bring the city into compliance with state law.

Related story: Interim tag removed as Virginia Beach names Hutcheson fire chief

The city had received permission to burn the structure from a private owner, Hutcheson said. In the future, “the occupational health, housing, legal, and fire departments will all be signing off” on related forms to ensure the structure does not contain asbestos.

The issues behind all four violations have been corrected, Hutcheson said. The state did not fine the city for the violations.

“We moved quickly to fix these problems,” Hutcheson said. “We were transparent and worked on fixing things before the report was even released.”

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