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St. Albans, Nitro fire departments making plans for bridge closure

NITRO, W.Va. -- Fire officials in the twin cities of Nitro and St. Albans have worked out alternate aid agreements for when the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge closes next month.

The bridge, which ties Nitro and St. Albans together, is being replaced by a new, three-lane span. The bridge is scheduled to close Jan. 7.

But more than providing the quickest way between the two cities, the bridge has been a lifeline for emergency services response between Nitro and St. Albans. The two cities have historically had an automatic aid agreement in place, requiring firefighters from Nitro to automatically help out with fires across the river in St. Albans, and St. Albans firefighters to pitch in to help fight fires in Nitro.

"We had an automatic aid agreement with St. Albans, that, when they dump the bridge, will no longer be in effect," said acting Nitro Fire Chief Ron King.

King said the Nitro Fire Department has a staff of 11. St. Albans has 21 firefighters, according to St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway.

Firefighters made use of the aid agreement last week, when firefighters from both St. Albans and Nitro battled a blaze in a Nitro service garage.

"They came over here 30 to 40 times a year, and we went over there 30 to 40 times a year," King said.

But with the bridge scheduled to be closed from next week through November, fire officials in both cities have had to work out contingency plans.

"We have a plan, we just hope we don't have to use it." Callaway said.

Local fire departments have always had mutual aid agreements to help each other out in fighting big fires. King said Nitro has agreements with fire departments in Kanawha and neighboring Putnam counties.

But because of the bridge closure, Nitro has worked out an automatic aid agreement with the Dunbar Fire Department, King said. The agreement will go into effect when the bridge closes.

St. Albans has worked out similar agreements with the Lakewood Volunteer Fire Department and with the city of South Charleston to send units from the Spring Hill fire station.

"That agreement will go into effect on the 7th [of January]," Callaway said.

Once the bridge closes, it will still be possible to get between Nitro and St. Albans, but the trip will require a 9.5-mile detour to the Nitro exit of Interstate 64, or a 12-mile detour to the bridge between Dunbar and Spring Hill.

Callaway said the bridge closing won't automatically stop all aid between Nitro and St. Albans. "We'll still respond if it's something huge," he said.Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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