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The Galax Volunteer Fire Department was called to Twin County Regional Hospital early Thursday morning, when a routine test of the hospital generator resulted in an electrical fire inside the building.
According to a report from Galax Fire Chief David Hankley, firefighters were dispatched to the hospital at 4:10 a.m. on April 24. The 911 dispatch reported that it had received calls from the hospital stating that there had been two explosions, Hankley told The Gazette.
On arrival, the department found the hospital staff evacuating patients. The first crew to enter the building found a fire in an electrical supply room on the second floor.
Sprinklers were activated at the scene, which helped contain the fire and allowed the department to put out the rest of the blaze quickly.
“We prepare for things like this,” said Martha Cole, the hospital’s marketing director.
During the incident, patients were moved to the outpatient surgery area of the hospital, which had been unaffected, Hankley explained.
Due to the initial explosion, the power went out at the hospital, leaving only emergency lighting available. Back-up generators provided the emergency power that the hospital needed.
The Emergency Service Command of the city was deployed, and assistance was provided from the Galax Police Department, Galax-Grayson EMS, Hillsville Fire Department, Carroll and Grayson sheriffs’ departments, Carroll fire and EMS and Virginia State Police.
“The fire departments, EMS, police… they were all fantastic,” Cole said.
Arrangements were made with the Galax Recreation Center to open as a shelter, and Galax schools provided buses for transport.
Approximately 50 patients, including the obstetrics (childbirth) unit were evacuated, but all patients were all able to be moved to other areas of the facility.
The emergency room was closed to new patients for several hours as emergency crews remained on scene. Local police departments sent out emergency alerts warning locals to seek medical help at hospitals in Mount Airy, N.C., or Wytheville. EMS units were prepared to transport emergency patients to these locations.
The emergency department was reopened and operating normally prior to the fire department’s departure from the scene at around 7 a.m.
The specific cause of the incident was still unknown.
Appalachian Power was investigating the incident on Thursday, and working to restore full power to the hospital.
Hankley thanked all of the departments that were involved in the response.