The history of the Callao Volunteer Fire Department is a history of men and women who have been willing to give of themselves for their community. The Department has experienced numerous growing pains in the 64 years since 1948 when the Callao Fire Department was first organized. During the intervening years, Callao has seen the department grow in membership from 19 members to 85 today. Of this, we have 50 members who are actively running calls. A volunteer fire department is a labor of love from those involved and CVFD has remained a reality only because of many dedicated hours of service.
The first written records of the department still available are the minutes from the December 10th meeting of 1948. This was the first meeting held in the first Fire house, the former Callao Rescue Squad building, now Pritchard & Fallin. The building was built in association with the American Legion with whom the department shared the building until 1952. At the first meeting the treasurer reported that $21,230.73 had been spent on the firehouse to that time, and to finish the building, $2,000.00 would have to be borrowed from the bank.
Prior to building of this structure, the Fire Department existed only a loose knit organization and the building was the catalyst which made the Callao Volunteer Fire Department a going interest.
As with any organization, new or old, finances have continued to be a concern of the CVFD. Over the years various methods of fundraising have been tried. One of the first fundraising events tried in 1949 was a carnival which was quite successful, raising almost $4,000.00. Carnivals were held through 1954. Interestingly enough cars were generally the first prizes for these carnivals, in fact the 1950 carnival had a drawing for a new 1950 V-8 Ford.
From 1948 to present, the members of the department accompanied by the support of the Ladies Auxiliary have sponsored many activities ranging from dances to truck pulls. Fundraising is also a huge part of being a member of the department. Although the majority of our funding comes from state and local government support, the departments hosts fundraisers, holds an annual fund drive to augment our budget affording us to purchase additional equipment to better serve and protect our community.
The bylaws of the Department were adopted in 1950 and were structured along the lines of the Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department, these bylaws have stood for 64 years, with minor changes in 1956, 1979 and more recently in 2004 when the department became incorporated
The President along with the board of directors head up the business section of the department, while the Chief and line officers head up the operations section of the department. In 1950 the department joined the Rappahannock Volunteer Firemen's Association, an organization composed of fire departments from the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.
As mentioned earlier, the Callao Volunteer Fire Department began its history in the former Rescue Squad building. The move across the street to our current facility began in 1952 when a disagreement surfaced between the Fire Department and the co owners of the building, the American Legion. After some committee work it was decided to locate elsewhere. Several offers of free building sites were rejected as the Fire Department membership decided to purchase the building and 3.5 acres formerly occupied by Central Concrete. The property deal was completed in September 1953 and this has remained the home of CVFD since that time.
The building has undergone several periods of renovation and repair to reach its current size and shape. Once the building was obtained, repairs were needed to be made and for a while the Fire Department met in different offices in Callao. In 1954 the first kitchen and restrooms were completed. The original kitchen now houses our cascade system and Antique Fire Engine. In 1959 the floor of the kitchen and restrooms were tiled and in 1960 the siren was moved across the street to the fire house. A set back occurred in 1960 when the building was struck by lightning. It took some time to complete the necessary repairs as a result of the storm. In 1964 another addition was added to the rear of the structure, to include a new kitchen, meeting room, and office. In 1981 a room was added to the left side of the structure to house our Antique Fire Engine, where it was housed until 2000. In 2000 our Antique Fire Engine received a much needed restoration, and as a result of new hard rubber tires, it would no longer fit in its storage room. Thus the room was turned into a tool room and the Antique was relocated to the front bays.
As important as the building and perhaps the most exciting aspect to the firefighters has been the addition of modern firefighting apparatus and equipment. Over the years firefighting apparatus and equipment has improved and become more technologically advanced.
The first meeting in 1948 made mention of one fire engine, and currently the department has a total of seven apparatus. The first truck was donated by a local saw mill, the former owner Fred Haislip, obtained the truck from a surplus sale to ensure he had fire protection of his facilities in the event of a fire. When the department was formed, Mr. Haislip graciously donated the truck to us. This truck a 1921 Brockway LaFrance, was used for a couple of years and then returned to Mr. Haislip. In the 1960's the department approached Mr. Haislip with hopes of getting the truck back and restoring it for use at parades and other civic functions in the community. He again gave the truck to the department. During the period of fifteen or so years a tree had grown up through the center of the truck, which had to be cut down to remove the truck. The members of the department worked diligently to restore the truck and it premiered in the late 1960's Callao Chamber of Commerce Parade. In 2000, a new paint job and tires gave the engine a much needed face lift. Within a few years the department had the engine rebuilt and the clutch relined. As with anything that is old it requires constant maintenance and repair. However, the truck is our first and is the pride and glory of many in the department. We are fortunate to have talent within our membership to keep repair and maintenance costs at a minimum, thus future generations can enjoy our first fire engine for generations to come.
The first mention of purchasing a new fire engine was in February 1951 when a truck was ordered from the Peter Piroch Fire Engine Company for a cost of $5,242.00. The last truck purchased in 2008 from 4Guys Fire Trucks, a small Brush Truck for a total of around $140,000.00. The cost of maintaining a fire department has increased many times over the years.
As far as equipment is concerned, safety and speed in answering fire calls have been the essential element in obtaining equipment. With safety in mind, turnout coats, and boots were purchased for each member in 1956. Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) have been added over the years and in 1978 a cascade system was added to fill air bottles. This system was used until around 2006 when a new modern system was purchased. To increase the speed in answering calls and efficiency, a central dispatch system was developed by the Sheriff's Office. Prior to this, Mr. C.W. Yeatman took fire calls and dispatched the firefighters and in doing so served the community with great distinction for over 30 years. Radio equipment was obtained in 1962 and expanded to each fire truck, a base station at the fire house, and members having pagers and portable radios. In the early 1980's the County purchased a set of vehicle extrication tools, commonly referred to as the "Jaws of Life" to assist in vehicle extrications for accidents. This first set of tools was housed in the furnace room at the Sheriff's Office. This was a central location for both fire departments within the county. The only problem, was response times to retrieve the tools and head to the scene. Since those humble beginnings, each department within our county now has multiple sets of extrication equipment on our apparatus and can respond much faster to assist those in harm's way.
The minutes of the CVFD show that logs of calls have been kept since 1955, but the earliest records available today are those from 1964 to present. In 1964 CVFD responded to 73 calls, by comparison the last several years we have run just over 200 calls per year. Two of the three large fires in the history of the department were in 1979, when the Wess Feed and Seed, adjacent to the fire department burned and Cur-Jacks Restaurant burned. The Wess Feed and Seed Fire, had departments responding as far away as King William County. In most recent history, the Callao Supply Company fire in 2006.
As mentioned earlier, safety and efficiency are the primary concerns of the Callao Volunteer Fire Department, and to assure this, members have taken hundreds of hours of training to better serve and protect our beloved community. Our apparatus and equipment would be worthless without the well trained and qualified members.
This is something the CVFD has been proud to have over the years. Numerous members of the community have made the huge sacrifice and commitment to serve for the well being of our citizens and their property. In return these dedicated men and women have learned the value of teamwork, how to work under extreme pressure, and have gained the fulfillment from knowing that they are serving their community. The strong family presence is a notable fact to mention that we have a long line of firefighters whose forefather were charter members of our organization. To date we have several members who are third and fourth generations as members of our department.
W. Edward Ashburn J.R. Gardy, Jr. Nettie Pittman
J.C. Booth E. S. Headley Arthur Rice
Robert Burgess L.S. Headley J.A. Hess
S. Bernard Clark M.A. Headley B. Franklin Winstead
Paul Dawson Hyatt Headley C.W. Yeatman
Edwin J. Deitz Milford L. Harrison
Randall Fulks Thomas F. Neale
Last Edited: Sep 6, 2012