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Incident Name: New Church Fire
Date: 9/24/10
Personnel:  William Harold "Hal" Clark
Age: 54
Agency/Organization:  Atlantic Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company
Position: Firefighter, President of the company

Summary: Firefighter Clark and the members of his department were assisting with wildland fires in New Church, VA. Firefighter Clark operated a 300 foot 1-1/2-inch hoseline on the fire for approximately 35 minutes. Firefighter Clark became ill while working the incident. He was treated at the scene and taken to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital as the result of a heart attack.

Credit: Atlantic Volunteer Fire and Rescue

William 'Hal' Clark William 'Hal' Clark

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Incident Location: 3420 Lankford Highway Atlantic, VA (USNG: 18S VH 5280 0539).

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • NIOSH Report: Fire Fighter Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death While Fighting Wildland Fire – Virginia (504 K pdf) Please read the entire report.

    NIOSH investigators offer the following recommendations to address general safety and health issues. It is possible if these recommendations had been implemented, the FF’s death may have been prevented.

    • Provide preplacement and annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters.
    • Ensure fire fighters are cleared for return to duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of fire fighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the various components of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582.
    • Perform a preplacement and an annual physical performance (physical ability) evaluation.
    • Phase in a comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters.
    • Provide fire fighters with medical clearance to wear self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as part of the Fire Department’s medical evaluation program.
    • Ensure fire fighters wear personal protective clothing appropriate to the incident.

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Firefighter Clark is Remembered as Loving and Giving Person ; Atlantic Volunteer Fondly Remembered after Line-of-Duty Death

    9/29/2010 | Virginia Department of Fire Programs, Ted Shockley Online Article

    ATLANTIC – William Harold “Hal” Clark is being remembered as a kindhearted volunteer who was especially fond of his community and its people.

    “He was a loving and giving person,” said David Grant, chief of Atlantic Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co., where Clark was a life member and the company’s president.

    Clark answered his final call on Friday evening at a raging brush and woods fire off U.S. Route 13 near New Church, not far from the Maryland state line.

    Clark was one of two firefighters transported to the hospital. One was treated for exhaustion and released. Clark was pronounced dead at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. His line-of-duty death shocked many friends and the larger regional brotherhood of firefighters. Grant said an autopsy has been performed but a cause of death is not immediately known.

    Clark’s funeral arrangements, which will include full firefighter honors, are being planned for late this week but had not been finalized by Sunday morning.
    Units and personnel from numerous Eastern Shore of Virginia fire companies and three from Worcester Co., Md., responded to the 5:31 p.m., alarm at 3420 Lankford Highway, across from the Virginia Welcome Center. Also responding were state forestry departments from Virginia and Maryland with a combined three bulldozers to help extinguish it. Some units and personnel stayed on the scene until 3 a.m. Saturday.

    “It was a very fast-moving fire,” said Chief Danny Outten of the New Church Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co.

    Outten expressed his condolences for the loss. “He was a very good guy,” he said of Clark. “He will be greatly missed.” “It was a bad day for the fire service.”

    Clark was a longtime employee with the town of Chincoteague, working in its public works department, and was known for this positive attitude. “Harold was a model employee,” said Chincoteague Mayor John H. Tarr. “He was just a great person to come on board and work for the town. “He cared about the community and the people he worked with.”

    Grant thanked those who have expressed condolences in the wake of Clark’s death. “The fire company appreciates the tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support from the numerous fire companies from across Delmarva and the Tidewater region during this difficult time,” he said. "It’s really hard."

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Statement from Atlantic Volunteer Fire and Rescue:

    It is with deepest regret the Atlantic Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, Inc., announces the Line of Duty Death of President William Harold Clark, who answered his final alarm on 9-24-10. Friends are invited to call Thursday 7-9 PM at Union Baptist Church. Funeral Service with full Firefighter Honors will be held at Union Baptist Church, Chincoteague Island, VA, at 2 PM on Friday, October 1st. All firefighters and motorcycle riders are welcome and encouraged to participate. Interment will be held at John W. Taylor Memorial Cemetery Temperenceville, VA.

  • Virginia House of Representatives: Tribute to William Hal Clark (9K pdf)
  • Firefighter William Hal Clark's Funeral in Pictures

    10/6/10: Online Bio (no longer online)

    Firefighter William “Hal” Clark, 54, of Atlantic, VA. passed away in the line of duty Friday, September 24th, 2010. Hal was born in Salisbury, Maryland on March 13, 1956, the son of the late Bill and Virginia (Shields) Clark. He worked for the Town of Chincoteague in the public works and water department. He was the president and lifetime member of the Atlantic Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company and past member of Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company as an engineer. He was very dedicated to volunteering at the Chincoteague Carnival. He was also a member of the Sons of American Legion Post # 159 and the American Legion Riders. He is survived by a daughter Valerie Merritt and her husband Keith of Chincoteague, Va; a granddaughter Jenna Merritt of Chincoteague, VA; a fiancé Mary Snead of Atlantic, VA and her son Michael; a brother Skibo Clark and his wife Cristy of Chincoteague; a sister Shelia Gallagher of Chincoteague, VA; a stepmother Jean Clark of Chincoteague, VA; three nieces Sandy Daisey, Melissa Clark, and Taylor Clark; two nephews Buster Dennis and Matt Clark; several aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was predeceased by a son Todd Clark. Friends are invited to call Thursday 7-9 PM at Union Baptist Church, Chincoteague VA. Funeral Service with full Firefighter Honors will be held at Union Baptist Church, Chincoteague Island, VA, at 2 PM on Friday, October 1st, with Rev. Maurice Enright and Rev. Bob Reese officiating. All firefighters and motorcycle riders are welcome and encouraged to participate. Interment will be held at John W. Taylor Memorial Cemetery Temperenceville, VA. Flowers accepted or donations may be made to Fire Company of Your Choice. Services entrusted to Salyer Funeral Home, Inc., where condolences may be made online at

  • USFA Memorial Database: Hal Clark

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Contributors to this article:  a Virginia firefighter, Mellie


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