VIRGINIA BEACH--A fatal house fire that claimed two lives on June 3 has drawn attention to one Virginia Beach neighborhood's fight to get better access for emergency vehicles.
Erik Stephen Ervin, 34, and his girlfriend, Michele Leigh Bulens, 35, died in a house fire at 1013 Kinderly Lane. Investigators say the fire was sparked by a discarded cigarette and was partly fueled by fireworks.
Dispatchers received a call about the blaze at 2:41 a.m., but by the time emergency crews arrived seven minutes later, the back end of the home was fully engulfed.
Battalion Chief Amy Valdez said the home is located in the responding station's furthest service area.
Valdenz says the Virginia Beach Fire Department has struggled for years to gain quick access to the Charlestowne Lakes South neighborhood.
Crews respond from their station on Pleasant Valley Road, which is separated from the neighborhood by a break in Lynnhaven Parkway between Dalrymple Street and Centerville Turnpike.
The break in the road forces crews to detour through residential streets and creates longer response times.
A project to widen and extend Lynnhaven Parkway with a 1.7-mile extension has been part of the city's plan since 1978.
Taha Ataya, Virginia Beach senior project manager, says the plan went unfunded for years because neither the Commenwealth nor the city could pay for the $36.8 million project.
But now, construction of the Lynnhaven Project is expected to begin late this year and is expected to be open to traffic in 2016.
The new road project will give citizens and emergency responders a straight path along Lynnhaven Parkway to access neighborhoods like Charlestowne Lakes more quickly.