Whaleyville department helps neighborsPublished 1:53pm Thursday, March 7, 2013
It has been many years since it began, but the Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department still serves the community with the same dedication that was present in 1946.
The organization was sponsored by the Ruritan Club and Town Council. It was officially chartered in April 1954 with 26 members present.
The first firefighting equipment was a hose reel pulled behind a pickup truck and used at small hydrants around town. Firemen wore rubber boots, raincoats or just their street clothes to protect themselves during fires.
The first fire truck owned by the department, a 1955 Ford, still is used today as a parade showpiece after having been restored in 1984. Turnout gear was purchased in 1956, and firefighters were responsible for taking training classes as well.
The rudimentary paging system included phones in the homes of four members, who would receive a call from the county. They would respond to the station to set off a siren, alerting other members. This system was used up until 1970.
Even in its long history, the department has remained very stable, with only four chiefs in that time frame: Frank Robertson from 1948-1969, Charles Brothers Sr. from 1969 to 1986; Joseph Asbell from 1986 to 2001 and Charles Brothers Jr. from 2001 to the present.
Brothers said the department was the first in the city to recognize the realities of the changing world of emergency medical services and invite city staff to man Station 8 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers pull duty on nights and weekends.
The city staff sometimes uses the volunteer fire department’s equipment.
“We have an understanding that it’s there to be used at any point in time for the good of the community,” Brothers said.
The organization has had wonderful support from the community, Brothers said. Fish fries are held every May and October to raise funds for the continued operations of the department.
“I think we get great support from the community,” Brothers said. “I’ve never had anybody tell me they didn’t want to buy a ticket because they don’t believe in our cause.”
Brothers added that the department, at 40-percent minority, is one of the most diverse volunteer organizations in Suffolk.
“Our motto is ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors,’” Brothers said, referring to the words emblazoned on the sides of the department’s vehicles. “We strongly believe in answering the call when the call’s there.”