History of Fairfields Volunteer Fire Department
Members of American Legion Post 117 and other concerned citizens and business men of Fairfields District started a fund raising campaign. Its purpose was to organize and locate a fire fighting organization in the Fairfields District in the year of 1947. It was a success due to liberal donations from the menhaden fishing industry, business places and inspired citizens.
A committee of two, Mr. T. Waller and Mr. R. L. Haynie Jr., was sent to Norfolk, Virginia to investigate war surplus equipment. They found a 1942 Ford fire fighting unit, capacity 500 gallons per minute and it was bought at auction for $1,300.
A committee of three, Mr. W. J. Atwill, Mr. H. C. Evans Jr. and Mr. Lionel McFarland, was sent to Norfolk to bring back this new enterprise for the anxious people of this community. Arriving home in the wee hours of morning, inspired with pride and joy, they proceeded down the main street of Reedville with the siren on full blast. No one was left sleeping. Everyone was awaken, not with anger or annoyed from the shrieking siren, but with a feeling of security and the birth of a new fire department.
The unit was kept in Parsons and Atwills garage where everyone could stare and admire the beautiful piece of equipment with all of its shiny gadgets, valves and levers. The motor had hardly cooled from the run from Norfolk to its new home in Reedville before someone yelled “FIRE”- a house owned by Mr. Will Crowther located on Fleeter Road. The piece of equipment roared down the highway, siren blasted, loaded down with aggressive and would be firemen followed by a line of cars as far as you could see. The truck was placed beside a well at the scene of the fire. After quite a bit of confusion, all the hose was run out and the draft hose dropped in the well. All set to put out the fire but no water showed up at the end of the hose where the man was yelling WATER! WATER!- while back at the engine every man was pushing, turning and shaking those bright shiny gadgets, valves and levers. In the meantime the house burned. Total loss. Off record, it was found that the water in the tank was pumped in the well. On the return to the garage all agreed now was the time to organize.
The first meeting of the Fairfields Volunteer Fire Department met in the Pythian Hall, Reedville on January 30, 1947. Mr. R. L. Haynie was elected chairman and took charge of the meeting. The motion was made and carried that this organization be officially known as the F.V.F.D.
Rev. Joe M. Dameron was elected Fire Commissioner (our first officer), Mr. Robert C. Haynie was elected temporary Fire Chief, Mr. Howard B. Jett-Treasurer and Mr. William C. Shackelford- Secretary. Committees of the Citizens committee were appointed to start the ball rolling. Such as, to put the truck in first class operating condition, to investigate an alarm system, finance, location for a fire house, insurance on equipment and legal action necessary for organization. Many meetings were held in various places; Blundon and Hinton, Parsons and Atwills, Peoples Bank, the Methodist Church and Reedville High School.
The organization committee held at the Methodist Church February 12, 1947 elected: Warren Taylor Slaughter-President and Fire Chief, Robert C. Haynie- Vice President and Assistant Chief; W. J. Atwill- 2nd Vice-President and Captain; Howard B. Jett- Treasurer; William C. Shackelford-Secretary and Joe M. Dameron-Fire Comissioner.
A rough draft of by-laws was drawn up. The year 1947 proved to be successful and memorable one for the department. The following men were recorded as charter members: Graydon Armsworthy, Elliott Bowen, B. C. Weaver, John Carey, Frank Jett, Joseph Robertson, Maurice Lee Rogers, Raymond T. Waller, R. P. Waller, Raymond Lee Haynie, W. T. Slaughter, Robert C. Haynie, W. J. Atwill, Howard B. Jett, William Shackelford, Joe M. Dameron and O.D. Cockrell. Mr. W. T. Covington and Mr. Frank Kilduff were elected associate members.
The Ladies Auxiliary was organized which has proved to be a great asset. A temporary house for our fire engine was obtained in the work shop at Reedville High School. A lot was purchased from the American Legion with a frontage of 125 feet on Route 360 for the sum $700. Building committee chairman, Frank Jett started at once planning and building our new fire house.
A carnival was planned and held the week of July 4th. It proved to be a success and our main source of income through 1954. Our women’s auxiliary and many citizens of our community worked with us to make it a success. Fire schools were attended, fire drills were held, hats, coats and boots were purchased for each fireman.
Our first banquet was held February, 1948 which has been an annual affair for the past 70 years and going. The department held their first meeting in the new fire house April 26th of this year.
First business of the meeting: A motion was made and carried that Joe Dameron secure two brooms and a dust pan as cheaply as possible for the new fire house.
In 1949 a new Oren three stage triple combination high pressure low pressure was purchased.
The department not only dedicated themselves to preventing and fighting fires but also to civic affairs. They maintained oxygen tanks, inhalers and resuscitator for the public. Sponsored first aid classes, boy scouts and cub scouts. Assumed the responsibility of a community Christmas tree.
In 1951 it formed a civic group of the F.V.F.D. to have as its main purpose the procurement of a Doctor for our community and empowered to help with the necessary financing for setting a Doctor up in business. The committee aided in securing three Doctors in 21 years.
March 28, 1955 the Board of Supervisors approved our request for financial support. However, due to a constant increase of expense by expanding our service to the public, it was necessary to continue seeking ways and means to raise money. Auction sales, boat racing, oyster roasts, dances and donations have been very profitable.
In 1958 an additional room was built to the fire house to house the new fire truck and a water tanker purchased in this year. Fourteen new members from Burgess and Glebe Point area were taken in the Department. A branch station was organized and plans for a fire house to be built at Glebe Point. This being completed the following year by hard work on the do-it-yourself basis.
One of the secrets to the success of F.V.F.D. is planning for the future and keeping abreast of time with new methods and equipment to cope with fire. In 1969 a beautiful custom made fire truck was bought. High and low pressure, 500 gallon per minute pumping capacity, with 1000 gallons water storage. 1972 a new water tanker with the capacity of 1100 gallons plus a foam applicator was purchased by the department. A most amazing and effective piece of equipment with a minimum amount of damage done to the space where it is applied. Modern communication system with radio telephones in each rolling piece of equipment being able to contact with each other and other adjoining counties. It was two radio base stations, Reedville and Glebe Point. A successful alarm system is used. Daytime the alarm is set off from Atwill’s Esso Center. Nighttime, Mr. Howard Croswells and Mr. A.M. Covington’s residence. There are three sirens. Blundon and Hinton’s water tower, Reedville Fire Station and Glebe Point Station. All sound off simultaneously. Radio contact is made between each department. Plans made and a standby fireman at each base station. At the present time the department has 4 pieces of pumping equipment and a water tanker. They have the capacity to pump 20,000 gallons of water per minute with a reserve of 3,800 gallons. A new fire truck is now on order. Our shelves are full of beautiful trophies to prove the skill of the firemen and the efficiency of our equipment in competitive exercises with other fire departments.
The F.V.F.D. has come a long way the past twenty five years, with vast wealth of material things, co-ordination with man and machinery, building an empire of good will and security among our community. A standing ovation is in order not only for this department but for all volunteer fire department’s thought this wonderful country who have dedicated their time, effort and skill with will the God gave them.
Our new fire truck arrived May 1972, a beautiful 500 gallon pumper mounted on a Ford chassis. A piece of modern fire fighting equipment that any fire company would be proud to own.
March 28, 1972 a banquet was held at The American Family Diner House to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary. Mr. Raymon T. Waller was the speaker of the evening and Mr. Warren T. Slaughter, toast master. Both gentlemen being charter members of the department. Mr. Slaughter gave the history of the department and presented certificates to the members that had served twenty-five years. It was sad to note that nine of the charter members who had worked so hard to organize the department and continued to dedicate their time and efforts to the growth of same, were not with us.
The deceased members are: W. G. Armsworthy, Raymond Lee Haynie, Robert C. Haynie, William J. Atwill, Howard B. Jett, Joe M. Dameron and O. D. Cockrell. Associate members, William T. Covington and Frank Kilduff.
Chief Warren Keyser was elected to the office of Registrar, a position that the late W. J. Atwill held for years.
November 15, 1973 the F.V.F.D. entertained the Rappahannock Firemen’s Association. Chief Dean of Dahlgren, Virginia spoke and showed films. Steamed oysters, crabs and drinks were served at Smith Seafood Company. The department continues to advance with time. A very unique and sophisticated alarm system has been installed. November 1973, nineteen plectron units were purchased. A unit is placed in the home of a fireman that lives out of the sound of the siren. When the alarm is sounded for a fire, the first member that arrives at the fire house sets off the plectron system which alerts all units simultaneously at the firemen’s house. They in turn pick up their receiver and will hear the member at the fire house telling them the location of the fire. This system has proven to be so effective that the department has ordered ten more sets. More will be installed as time goes on.
Fire drills and practice are held regularly to teach probation members how to combat fires and familiarize them in handling the pumpers and equipment. Also keeps regular members up to date. Several old buildings have been burned with permission from the owners and the county. This has been proven to be a good experience in actual combat. Air tanks are used when entering a burning or smoke filled building, which enables the firemen to get closer to the fire without becoming asphyxiated. The air tanks can be refilled at the Kilmarnock Fire Department or sent to Richmond.
Fire schools and first aid classes are attended annually.
Inflation puts the squeeze on most every one and we have found that fire departments are not exempted. Due to the rise in cost of equipment, maintenance, fuel, etc., it was imperative that we have an increase in funds from the county. Now this was not an easy task because the county has its problems also. But with bull dog perseverance and facts, our most capable president presented our needs to the Board of Supervisors. June 1974 the county gave the F.V.F.D. $6,000 in a lump sum and $4,500 quarterly. The department continues to operate as a corroborated team. Dedicating their time and efforts to save lives, property and working for the good of our community with guidance of our competent president and chief and their staff.
By: B.C. Weaver
August 7, 1974