Firefighters respond to Virginia home 1,100 times in 3 years

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. --- Firefighters have been called to one home 1,100 times in the past three years.

The couple who live there call for help twice a day, and firefighters respond to help George Niemiec, who struggles to get around.

"We wanted to keep him at home and the only help he needs is getting in and out of bed," said his wife, Shirley Niemiec.

Cameras were rolling as a crew showed up at the house on Thursday.

"When we decide to go to a call, it's not really whether or not we're going to go, whether it's a emergency or nonemergency," said District Chief Kenneth Pravet with the Virginia Beach Fire Department.

Firefighters said they are working to get the couple the appropriate resources. But there's a problem. The couple said they don't qualify for social services and can't afford home health care.

The fire department recognizes this is a problematic situation.

"We are not in the home health care business. We are not here to provide nonemergency support. We will certainly help mitigate any problem that you have. But if it's not an emergency it's not what we can cover under our normal scope," Pravetz said.

Fire officials said they don't know how much all these calls for service are costing the city.

"Certainly there is cost associated with anyone going to one address multiple times." Pravetz said.

Shirley said she bought a device that could help lift George out of the bed.

"I got (it) before and I thought I could do it myself but I couldn't. If the nurses aide comes out they have to stay at least three or four hours, it's $25 an hour," she said.

She said that is a price she cannot afford.

The fire department said this is a growing problem in the city as they have seen a rise in the number of older people needing lift assistance.

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