Holland honors firefighter

Published 9:13 pm Monday, December 8, 2008

Ronald Hatfield does not like to take credit for what he does.

Even so, the assistant chief of the Holland Volunteer Fire Department received the award for Outstanding Firefighter of the Year during a meeting of the department last week.

“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I think every one of them deserves it.”

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Hatfield has covered all sides of public safety in Suffolk. He was a police officer for 10 years before moving to the fire department.

“I started hanging around the fire stations,” he said. “I decided to switch and start firefighting.”

The rest is history. He was a firefighter on the paid force for 25 years, starting out in Nansemond County and moving to Suffolk as a result of the merger in 1974.

“The service and helping people” is the main reason he loves fighting fires, he said.

One of his most memorable calls came when a large movie theater in downtown went up in flames.

“We were there fighting it a right good while,” he said. “Everybody was there. We had a couple people injured, but we were lucky there wasn’t any casualties.”

When he finally decided to retire after 25 years, he found that he couldn’t make it stick.

“About six months after I retired, I decided, hey, maybe I could offer my services as a volunteer to a needy community,” he said.

With that, he joined the Holland Volunteer Fire Department. He mainly works supporting the paid staff at the Holland station. He’s one of the few volunteers who are unemployed, so he has more time to run calls, he joked.

“I run a lot of accidents,” he said. “When there’s brush fires or house fires, I try to pick up a tanker or a brush truck.”

Despite his long history of supporting public safety in Suffolk, Hatfield shrugs off any recognition of his service.

“Everybody’s important,” he said. “I can’t do it myself, other than maybe delivering water.”

He told his fellow firefighters at the meeting that they should be receiving the award instead of him, he said.

“Everyone one of y’all deserves this, not just me,” he recalled telling them.

For Hatfield, the only recognition he needs is the enjoyment of his profession.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being able to respond to emergencies.”