PRATT, W.Va. — Residents of the small eastern Kanawha County community of Pratt and supporters from throughout the region cried together Sunday night at a candlelight vigil held just more than 24 hours after two firefighters were killed and three others injured during an emergency response call.
Firefighters from as far away as Craigsville and Ripley joined several hundred residents for special prayer and singing in front of the town’s fire station.
The crash Saturday night on Paint Creek Road near Lower Patch Gallagher claimed the lives of Pratt VFD Assistant Chief Mike Edwards, 46, and Lt. Tom Craigo, 40, both of Hansford. Chief Timmy Walker, 42, of Hansford, and Firefighter Billy Hypes, 56, of Gallagher, were injured and remain hospitalized at CAMC General. Firefighter Kyle Jenkins, 17, suffered minor injuries and was at Sunday night’s vigil.
“I’ve received phone calls from Texas and Miami, Florida from folks reaching out to help,” vigil speaker David Armstrong told the crowd. “This isn’t just a fly-by-night group, we’re a brotherhood.”
Chesapeake Fire Chief P.J. Johnson agreed.
“The fire service is like a brotherhood,” he told MetroNews following the vigil. “When things like this happen it hits hard.”
Ripley Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Gobble III didn’t know the two firefighters who were killed but he said it didn’t matter.
“It’s all one big family so you go to support the firefighters and the community whether you know them or not,” Gobble said.
Candlelight vigil at Pratt VFD
Posted by MetroNews on Sunday, March 25, 2018
Speaker after speaker and prayer after prayer pledged support for the Pratt VFD in the weeks and months ahead. Nearly half of the department’s leadership team was either killed or seriously injured in the crash.
“It’s going to be hard for them to recover but we’ll help them out,” Johnson promised.
The cause of the wreck hasn’t been determined. The fire truck went into s roadside ditch, slammed into a jagged roadside rock formation and skidded against those rocks for several feet.
Kanawha County Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman told the crowd, Saturday night was the worst night of his 47-year firefighting career but also the night when he was most proud of the fire service.
“We worked together like we’re supposed to and never have I’ve been more proud,” he said. “But it was also the worst night.”
Some counseling opportunities will be available to Pratt firefighters beginning Monday evening.