A Virginia firefighter, Deputy Chief Chester T. Lauck with Frederick County Fire and Rescue, suffered a heart attack hours after responding to a wildfire and died the following morning.
The notice from the Frederick County Government Facebook page on Sunday announced “On behalf of Fire and Rescue Chief Steven A. Majchrzak, it is with profound sadness that we announce the Line-Of-Duty Death of Deputy Chief Chester T. Lauck, who passed away this morning at 8:09 a.m. at Winchester Medical Center surrounded by family and friends.”
In his most recent position, Lauck was responsible for the Emergency Management Division. Prior to that he had worked for the Winchester (Virginia) Fire and Rescue Department and had retired He retired from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Fire and Rescue Department as a Battalion Chief of the Special Operations Division. He’d also worked as an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighter (ARFF) for the Air National Guard and began service in 1984 as a patrolman for the Virginia Department of Forestry, where he worked on wildland incidents and events.
Rocky S. Wood died while fighting a wildfire in Buchanan County in southwest Virginia on March 9, 2023.
Wood, an employee with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), died at approximately 8:30 p.m. while working on a 15-acre wildfire near the Roseann community along Lester’s Fork Road. Prior to becoming a full-time forestry technician with VDOF in 2016, he had worked as a part-time wildland firefighter with the agency and for the Virginia Department of Corrections. An investigation is underway, according to a statement from VDOF.
“Today our hearts are broken as we send our sincere condolences to Rocky’s family, friends and fellow colleagues during this difficult time,” said State Forester Rob Farrell.
A Facebook post from the Town of Haysi, Virginia, where Wood was vice mayor and chief of the Haysi Volunteer Fire Department, also shared condolences. “We will strive to honor his memory and service,” the post reads, “though it’s hard to find the right words at this time. Please keep his family in your prayers as they navigate their grief.”
On April 6 firefighters conducted the first prescribed fire in Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts west of the District of Columbia. According to the National Park Service it was also the first prescribed fire in Fairfax County, Virginia. (UPDATE April 11, 2018: Katie said in a comment that Fairfax County Park Authority has been conducting prescribed burns in Fairfax County for many years.)
Fire was introduced to the native meadow in order to help the indigenous vegetation flourish while helping to control non-native plants.
The agencies assisting included Prince William Forest Park, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields National Military Park, and Fairfax County.
The park is about 8 air miles west of the District of Columbia. It was created by legislation passed in 1966 “… for the performing arts and related educational programs, and for recreation use in connection therewith…”
A brewery in Virginia has developed a special beer that not only recognizes wildland firefighters but will help support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF). The One Foot in the Black beer is a smoked black IPA that was brewed to honor wildland firefighters. According to the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, it has “a smoky flavor that that interplays with the pine character of American hops”.
The name of the special brew comes from the advice to stay on the edge of the burned area on a wildland fire because usually it can be used as a safety zone. The beer was designed by brewer Erik Filep who himself is a wildland firefighter.
The company will donate 50 percent of the per pint and per growler sales to the WFF, a non-profit organization that assists wildland firefighters and the families of firefighters injured or killed while on the job.
This is not the first time a brewer has supported the WFF. In 2014 during the Coors Banquet “Protect Our West” program, the company contributed 25 cents to the WFF for every case of the beer sold in select states in the Western region throughout July and August, up to $250,000.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Pete. Typos or errors, report them HERE.
Above: Smoke from the Eades Hollow and Mount Pleasant Fires can be seen in a satellite photo taken Wednesday afternoon, November 23, 2016.
(Originally published at 5:55 p.m. ET November 23, 2016)
Two wildfires in central Virginia were very active on Wednesday, creating smoke that drifted northeast toward Washington, DC.
The Mount Pleasant Fire has burned 4,400 acres since it started November 19 10 miles northwest of Amherst, Virginia on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests within the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area. Wednesday morning 122 personnel were assigned, plus engines, dozers, three aircraft, and other resources that are en route. On Tuesday the fire grew by 1,689 acres. A Type 3 Incident Management Team from the Montana Department of Natural Resources has assumed command of the fire.
The Eades Hollow Fire 16 miles northeast of Amherst has blackened 922 acres, growing by 422 acres on Tuesday.
In the video below, Superintendent Jim Northup describes the 20,000-acre Maximum Management Area within which Shenandoah National Park hopes to contain the Rocky Mtn Fire.
(UPDATED at 10:35 p.m. EDT, April 21, 2016)
There is news related to the disappearance of 31-year-old Nicole Mittendorff, the missing firefighter from Fairfax, Virginia whose car was found in Shenandoah National Park. She was first reported missing Friday of last week when she did not show up at the fire station for her shift. At approximately 2:00 p.m. today a ground team of National Park Service and Virginia State Police personnel discovered a body in a remote location more than a mile from the Whiteoak Canyon parking area and about 330 yards from the trail in treacherous rocky terrain. National Park Service and Virginia State Police are currently still processing the scene. The search has been suspended. WTOP reports that the Virginia State Police and the family believe the remains are those of Ms. Mittendorff.
The car and the remains were about 22 miles from the Rocky Mount Fire. There has been no report so far that this incident is related to the wildfire.
As of Thursday afternoon, the fire has burned 7,935 acres.
On Wednesday fire crews improved containment lines by burning out vegetation between the fire and eight miles of containment lines along the northern & northwestern perimeter of the fire. Additional fire line preparation was successfully completed along the Skyline Parkway. Work continues on several dozer lines along the western side of the fire to tie together existing terrain features.
With the changing and variable winds Wednesday fire crews picked up multiple spot fires, catching and containing all of them. These included: on the south eastern side, a spot fire north of the Patterson Ridge Trail west of the Plainfield hut, one small one on the northwest corner of the fire and 6 small spot fires near the One Mile Trail Run.
After it’s been burning for five days, the Incident Management Team put out word today that the name is now “Rocky Mtn Fire 2016”.
(UPDATED at 1:40 p.m. EDT, April 20, 2016)
The Rocky Mount Fire in Shenandoah National Park has expanded to 5,600 acres, according to the Type 1 incident management team that assumed command of the fire Wednesday morning. The fire is burning in mountain laurel, pine, and oak forests with heavy leaf litter.
On Tuesday afternoon the fire burned across Skyline Drive blackening 80 to 100 acres on the east side of the highway near mile marker 76. Today crews are actively suppressing that portion of the fire, assisted by two water dropping helicopters.
Firefighters conducted a burnout operation near the Beldor Hollow Community to help contain the fire to that area. Crews expect the fire will hold at Beldor Hollow Road.
The fire progressed south near Brown Mountain Trail on Tuesday and was active overnight near Two Mile Run Lane. The Virginia Department of Forestry crews monitored the area overnight. Fire crews are providing structure protection near the Two Mile Run and Lam Hollow communities.
Firefighting resources assigned, available, or en route include two air tankers, four helicopters, six engines, for a total of 248 personnel.