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In ten-and-a-half years, STATter911.com has shared a lot of citizen play-by-play from firegrounds. Nothing, so far, can top Rhoda Young’s performance on Birmingham Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia Monday afternoon. I urge you to watch the video.
Rhoda transmitted – live on Facebook – arrival images and an interview with a resident of the burning home, a man Rhoda later showed being walked from the scene in handcuffs. All the while, Rhoda walked in and around the fireground providing some rather strange, stream of consciousness narration in a booming voice.
Rhoda and a trusty driver, despite some intitial confusion, pulled up with the first fire apparatus at the burning single-family home. The fire had already extended a bit to a second home. Rhoda hopped out of the car and went to work, telling the world dozens of times over the next 54-minutes, “I’m Rhoda Young, live on the scene.”
Rhoda pretty much bulldozed her way through that scene. In the opening minutes, she was standing within inches of the shoulder of a battalion chief, but quickly moved back when he shot her a look. Rhoda barked orders about putting water on the fire and repeated warnings about a falling power line, which she captured on video. Rhoda demanded in her live stream that Dominion Power come out and shut the electricity for the neighborhood. Rhoda likes to take charge.
Soon Rhoda was talking to the resident of the burning home, identified later in news reports as Donald William Stricker III. Rhoda let her audience know Stricker was sitting on a lawn across the street from his house drinking a can of PBR from a six pack by his side.
When Rhoda returned to Stricker a few minutes later she noticed his hair had been singed and told her audience his story didn’t add up. Rhoda also sought out numerous fire officials trying to tell them of her suspicions about Stricker. While it seemed a little odd and reckless that someone would be so bold to share such accusations in a live broadcast, it turned out Rhoda’s hunch was well founded. A neighbor soon relayed to Rhoda that Stricker had admitted to setting the fire.
Minutes later Rhoda was showing Mr. Stricker live with fire investigators who then took the man away in handcuffs. Rhoda was right their heels showing and describing the arrest.
Rhoda seemed happy with her performance and expressed multiple times the hope that her beloved WAVY-TV saw all of this (“WAVY News 10 tune me in!”), would use the video and someday give her a job.
While few are quite as bold as Rhoda Young, in today’s world, these unpolished and untrained citizen reporters are going live at many, if not most, emergency scenes. They have become the first responders in a digital news world where everyone is a TV reporter doing a live shot.