Valdosta Daily Times

August 22, 2013

Finest hour in face of disaster

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Valdosta Fire Department Battalion Chief Capt. Ronald Skrine referred to the fire and explosions last week in the Azalea East Industrial Park as the worst situation he’s encountered in 14 years as a firefighter.

Skrine said it was also his proudest moment on the job.

While firefighters normally have a blaze under control within 15 minutes of arrival, the Aug. 14 situation had escalated in intensity 15 minutes after the fire department arrived. Explosions continued. Authorities looked for gas lines. A storm promised to cool firefighters but threatened to spread the potential of environmental damage from chemical runoff.

A week later, as authorities wait to speak with two injured, hospitalized employees, an exact cause of what sparked the Perma-Fix of South Georgia incident had yet to be determined Wednesday.

Yet amidst the potential for large-scale catastrophe, as authorities evacuated businesses within a mile radius from the fire site, firefighters kept coming to the scene.

Skrine issued a “second alarm,” which called

all on-duty Valdosta Fire Department personnel to the fire. He initiated the mutual-aid agreement which brought Lowndes County and Moody Air Force Base firefighters and equipment to the industrial park.

And he requested assistance from any available off-duty VFD firefighters. Dozens of off-duty city firefighters arrived. They either had gear already with them or stopped in station houses to get their gear, but they kept coming.

Seeing the off-duty firefighters arrive — that was Capt. Skrine’s proudest moment.

As the investigation continues into the fire, we pray for the injured and their families. Yet, with more than 100 firefighters answering the call to a potentially disastrous situation, we can understand Capt. Skrine’s pride.

Our firefighters’ commitment and training in those perilous moments should stand as one of our community’s finest hours.