Virginia Beach Firefighters Complain About Training In Asbestos Containing Structure

A live burn in an asbestos-containing acquired structure in Virginia Beach has prompted the Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters to request state and federal officials to investigate. The April 15 training exercise was in an abandoned home that the owner granted the fire department permission to use.

The Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters filed complaints with the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency and several state agencies as a result. Bill Bailey, president of the firefighters’ organization, said the live burn “appears to be a clear violation of federal and state environmental laws and cannot be tolerated or ignored.”

According to the Virginian-Pilot, the city claims only a small amount of asbestos was actually found, while conceding that mistakes were made in allowing the live burn. The paper quoted Fire Chief David Hutcheson as saying:

  • We missed some paperwork opportunities and we own that
  • But there was nothing that was done sneakily. It was simply an oversight.
  • The last thing we would want to do is subject any of our firefighters and the public to a dangerous situation

NFPA 1403, Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions has an entire chapter devoted to live fires in acquired structures. It requires that hazardous environmental conditions be removed from acquired structures before live fire training occurs, and specifically mandates that all forms of hazardous asbestos be removed by an “approved manner and documentation provided to the AHJ”.

More on the Virginia Beach case.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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