CVFD is city’s only all-volunteer departmentPublished 2:03pm Thursday, March 7, 2013
The city’s only all-volunteer fire department, Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department, boasts about 45 active volunteers on its roster.
“I think we are a very strong organization,” said Greg Parsons, the chief. “We’ve recruited at a steady pace over the last few years.”
The department began in 1954 when Bill Harvell saw the need for a fire department. About 50 men attended an interest meeting in the Chuckatuck High School cafeteria. The first official meeting was held Jan. 5, 1955.
The fledgling department received significant support from the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club. In the early days, the department’s first truck, a 1942 model, was kept in members’ garages until the station was built. Emergency calls came to the home of the first chief, Al Saunders, and his wife would start a phone tree to alert other firefighters. Later, phone calls to local businesses — Saunders Supply Co. during the day and White’s Television Shop at night — would cause either Saunders Supply or Mrs. White to turn a crank that activated an alarm on top of the fire station.
Nowadays, the volunteers operate out of Station 9 on Kings Highway, and they ran about 310 calls last year. City career personnel staff an ambulance that runs out of the same station, but the fire department is staffed entirely by volunteers.
“We have a lot of members that live within very close proximity to the fire station, so they respond from home,” Parsons said, adding that some volunteers also prefer to spend their duty shifts at the station. “We’re very fortunate in that we don’t have staffing problems. We have a very strong response, and our members are very dedicated.”
The department gets roughly 40 percent of its annual operating requirement from the city. It raises the remaining 60 percent through fundraisers.
“We have great support from our community,” Parsons said.
That support recently helped the department purchase a new engine, a $540,000 Pierce Arrow XT pumper. The 2012 model is able to pump 1,250 gallons of water per minute. Among its features is a lower cabin to fit into some of the tight spots it sometimes encounters in the more rural area.
Parsons said the department’s continued service is “a testament to the hard work of the membership.”
“We have a very strong response, and our members are very dedicated,” Parsons said. “The commitment our folks make, not only to emergency response but to training and fundraising, is very impressive.”