History

Virginia Fire/EMS History Timeline Project

VAFireNews.com has set out to create an online exhibit of related history to Virginia’s Fire and EMS history. If you would like to add something from your fire department, please email us. Please include the date, department including city or county, historic information, and images if you care to share them. Contributors will be listed at the bottom of the project.

1600 – 1800

1608 – January 7, 1608 - Fire destroys Jamestown, Virginia

1730 - Norfolk – In 1730, an Act of Assembly was passed in the City stating that wooden chimneys were prohibited. (source)

1751 - Norfolk – In 1751, the first engine used for fighting fire was imported from Newsbam & Rag of White Chapel, London, England. It had to be filled by buckets and when pumped by four to six men, could throw a half inch water stream a distance of thirty feet. (source)

1774 - The Friendship Fire Company was established in 1774, boasting George Washington as one of its members, and was the first volunteer fire company in Alexandria. The current firehouse was built in 1855, remodeled in 1871 and renovated in 1992. (source)


1800 – 1900

1811 - Richmond Theatre Fire, Richmond, VA. 72 dead.

1855 – November - the Alexandria Fire Department lost 7 members in a building collapse in the 100 Blk. of King St. This is reported to be the largest LODD Fire in Virginia’s history. The first paid firefighters in Alexandria were hired in 1855 as well.

1858 – October 25, 1858 - The Richmond Fire Department began a paid department with the organization of four (4) Engine and (2) Truck Companies. (John Hinant)

1865 - Richmond – The City Council Fire Committee on January 5, 1864 authorized the hiring of two black firefighters. (source with a lot of information on the first black firefighters in the City of Richmond)

Fall of Richmond - April 2, 1865

1865 – April 2, 1865 - The Fall of Richmond – Richmond was evacuated on the 2nd of April, 1865. The fleeing Confederates set fire to several warehouses, and the fire got out of hand. In addition, a mob formed, looting and spreading the fire. The next day, the Federals received the city’s surrender, and entered the city. The following articles and accounts detail the fall and occupation of Richmond. (source)

1865 – April 6, 1865 - Yesterday afternoon the Richmond Fire Brigade commenced the very necessary work of pulling down the toppling walls that overhang the avenues of the burnt district ready to descend any moment in an avalanche of brick, granite and mortar upon the heads of the throngs of citizens and soldiers who are curious seekers among the ruins of once fair and beautiful Richmond. The military authorities who gave the order for the demolition of the ruins, reinforced the Fire Brigade by a detail of colored troops, who worked manfully at the ropes. One of the walls of a warehouse on Cary street fell yesterday, and several white boys who were gathering old iron from the ruins were badly injured by the bricks. (From the Richmond Whig)

Photograph of the Rotunda fire of October 27, 1895. All but the brick shell of the Rotunda was burned in the fire.

1882 – March 26, 1882 – A Big Fire at Richmond. The James River Bridge and several tobacco factories destroyed – a loss of about $600,000.

1884 - The Danville Fire Department dates back to January 1, 1884 when the City of Danville Little Mary–Restored 1909 American LaFrance Steam Pumperestablished its first paid fire department with C. S. Bennett as fire chief. (source)

1886 - Clifton Forge Fire Department was organized. (source)

1886 – December 2, 1886 – The Virginia State Firefighter’s Association (VSFA) was organized December 2, 1886, in Portsmouth, VA, with Chief A.L. Furqua of Richmond, VA, being elected to serve as the first president. (source)

1891 – 1892 - The Newport News Fire Department was formed. (source)

1892 – a few citizens of South Norfolk organized the South Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department. (source)

Fire at the Hotel Roanoke 1898 From the Virginia Tech Imagebase

1895 – University of Virginia – A fire, caused by faulty electrical wiring, started in the annex on October 27, 1895. In a dramatic attempt to save the Rotunda, engineering professor William H. Echols tried dynamiting the bridge between the annex and the Rotunda. Unfortunately, this blew a hole in the Rotunda, and the fire spread more rapidly. Before it could be brought under control, the annex, dome and interior of the Rotunda had been destroyed. Only the Rotunda’s charred circular brick walls remained. (source) More information here.

1898 – Fire at the Hotel Roanoke


1900 – 1920

Fire companies from Staunton, Harrisonburg, Clifton Forge and Charlottesville battled the blaze.

Fire companies from Staunton, Harrisonburg, Clifton Forge and Charlottesville battled the blaze.

1902 – March 4, 1902 - The Covington Volunteer Fire Department was organized with 34 members Fred C. Jesser, elected chief

1906 - The Shenandoah Volunteer Fire Company was organized December 10, 1906. (source)

1910 - The City of Norfolk placed in service it s first motor-driven fire apparatus. Norfolk was the first in the State to adopt motorized apparatus.

1911 - …shortly after 10 o’clock on the night of March 20, 1911, when a Staunton police officer punched a fire alarm while making his rounds in the Johnson Street area. By the time

Fire companies from Staunton, Harrisonburg, Clifton Forge and Charlottesville battled the blaze.

Fire companies from Staunton, Harrisonburg, Clifton Forge and Charlottesville battled the blaze.

he saw the fire, flames had eaten through the wall of a 10-pin bowling alley in the Wharf area, consumed several outbuildings and were shooting skyward. (source)

1912 – Fairfax County – First mention of the Fire Department in county records. (source)

1918 - Chief Stowe recommended to the Board of Fire Commissioners that the Newport News Fire Department become a fully paid department, and by 1919 there were a total of 20 paid personnel. (source)


1920 – 1940

1925 – Chincoteague Fire Department Pony Swim and Auction began. The herds were at first transferred by boat, but in 1925 they were swum across the channel and Pony Penning’s “modern” era began. (source)

1928 – May 28, 1928 – Julian Wise and nine coworkers at the Norfolk and Western Railway began the first volunteer rescue squad; The Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Squad (source)

1930 – The State Fire Chiefs Association of Virginia, Inc., was organized in 1930 by progressive Fire Chiefs who saw the need to work together for the betterment of the fire service. The SFCAV is now known as the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association. (source)

1930 -1931 – The Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department was organized in August of 1931 following a series of fires that destroyed the Hillsville High School in 1930, which was only 2 or 3 years old at the time of the fire. When disaster occurred again, a large portion of the Downtown Business District was destroyed January 28,1931. (source and a lot more history )

1932 – Hillsville – The First Fire House was built in 1932, a small one-room building next to the jail on what is now the corner of Center and Cherry Street. (source and a lot more history )

1932 – Fairfax County – Volunteer Station 1 (McLean) purchased the first Ambulance – a 1926 LaSalle. (source)

1933 – in 1933 Covington Fire Department First Aid and Life Saving Crew was organized . On February 12, 1935, the Covington Fire Department First Aid and Life Saving Crew became a charter member of the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads and assisted in the organization of the association. The crew was also a charter member of the International Rescue and First Aid Association, which organized in Atlantic City, New Jersey in September 1948. (Kevin Pettitt)


1940 – 1960

1947 – the Newport News Fire Department had five fire stations, 15 pieces of equipment and 75 paid employees. There were three volunteer companies with 100 personnel. (source)

1949 - Fairfax County – On May 4, 1949, the Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of firefighters for each of the volunteer stations. (source)

1952 – The Pamplin Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1952 by a group of residents who thought that the Pamplin area was too far from the existing fire departments at the time. With Farmville Fire Department located 15 miles to the east and Appomattox Fire Department ten miles to the west, long response times were normal. Members of the Pamplin Ruritan Club were instrumental in the formation of the department. (source)

1952 – May 1, 1952 - Virginia Beach – The Princess Anne-Virginia Beach Rescue Squad, Inc. began operations with twenty-two charter members and one associate. (source)


1960 – 1980

1968 - The Virginia Ambulance Law is passed and establishes the state’s authority to regulate ambulances, verify first aid training, and issues permits. (source)

1970 - The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad in Charlottesville, VA starts the nation’s first volunteer paramedic program under Dr. Richard Crampton. One of their first patients was President Lyndon Johnson, who suffered a heart attack while visiting his son-in-law Chuck Robb at UVA. (source)

1972 – April 24, 1972 - The Alexandria Firefighters signed a charter joining the organization to the International Association Firefighters and Virginia Professional Firefighters on April 24, 1972. (source)

1972 – June 23, 1972 – Tropical Storm Agnes. (source)

1974, March - Judith Livers was hired by the Arlington County, Virginia, Fire Department, the first woman in the world to become a career firefighter. (source)


1980 – 2000

1983 – “One for Life” law is passed in Virginia. This law assesses one dollar from each motor vehicle license and replaces all other state funding for emergency medical services. This provides funds to each city and county in Virginia and substantially increases support for regional EMS Councils, Rescue Squad Assistance Fund and EMT instructors. (source)

1991 - The National EMS Memorial Service had its beginnings in Virginia in 1991 when a group of member of the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads (VAVRS) realized that although there were law enforcement and firefighter memorials, there was no mechanism in place to recognize the sacrifices being made the nation emergency medical service providers. They set out to correct this and in 1992 held a ceremony to recognize the line of duty deaths of a number of Virginia EMS providers. (source)

1991 - In 1991, the General Assembly created the Richmond Ambulance Authority. The Authority was charged with the mission to raise the level of pre-hospital care provided to the citizens of Richmondby providing outstanding responsiveness, improved clinical results, community accountability, and financial stability. (source)

1991 - Norfolk – On April 9, 1991 the Norfolk Fire Department and the Bureau of Paramedical Rescue Services begins its merger into one department, the Norfolk Fire and Paramedical Services. By November of 1992, all of Norfolk Fire and Paramedical Services paramedics had completed their firefighter cross-training. (source)

1995 - Chesterfield – Old Buckingham Station Fire – On Friday, May 19, 1995 at 1:46 a.m., the Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center received a 911 telephone report of a fire in the sprinklered Lodge Building at the Old Buckingham Station apartment complex. This X-shaped, three and four story, wood frame structure was the largest building in the complex and contained the management offices, social function room, and 58 apartments. (source)

1996 – September 6, 1996 - Hurricane Fran. (source)

1998 - In May of 1998 the U.S. Congress, through unanimously passed concurrent resolutions of the Senate and House of Representatives (S.Con.Res and H.Con.Res 171) recognized the National EMS Memorial Service, held in Roanoke, VA, as the official EMS Memorial of the United States. (source)

1998 – September 4, 1998 - Hurricane Bonnie. (source)

1999 – September 6, 1999 – Tropical Storm Dennis and Tornadoes. (source)

1999 – September 18, 1999 - Hurricane Floyd. (source)


2000 – Present

2001 – September 11, 2001 - Arlington – Attack on the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, 189 people died, including a woman who succumbed at the Washington Hospital Center burn unit days later. Everyone on the airplane – 64 passengers and crew – perished. The others, including soldiers and sailors and members of the Defense Intelligence Agency, died inside the Pentagon. (source)

2003 – September 18, 2003 - Hurricane Isabel. (source)

2003 - Hillsville – In December of 2003, Station 2 was opened at Laurel with 15 members and it housed one class A pumper, one brush truck, and one hazardous materials. (source and a lot more history )

2004 - Hillsville – In March 2004, Station 3 was opened in Dugspur with 10 members and it housed one class A pumper and one brush truck. (source and a lot more history)

2007 – April 16, 2007 - Virginia Tech – A gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history Monday, cutting down his victims in two attacks two hours apart before the university could grasp what was happening and warn students. The bloodbath ended with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33 and stamping the campus in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains with unspeakable tragedy, perhaps forever. (source) Virginia Tech/ We Remember website.

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