Where We Came From
In 1954, Mr. Bill Harvell of Chuckatuck saw a need for the organization of a volunteer fire department in the community. The area was currently being served by both the Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department and the City of Suffolk Fire Department. Mr. Harvell went to speak with Mr. J R Kirk to ask his assistance in organizing a fire department. In February of that year, approximately fifty men met at the Chuckatuck High School cafeteria in pursuit of that goal. There were many issues to be settled including the purchase of land, equipment, the construction of a fire station and training of the new members.
After the initial meeting Mr. J R Kirk approached the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club and suggested they support the efforts of this group. The Ruritan Club President, Mr. Richard Davis, appointed Mr. Kirk to be the chairman of a committee to assist in the organization of the fire department. The Ruritan Club sponsored an auction sale and raised approximately $1,700 of the $19,000 needed to start the department.
Mr. Kirk and Mr. Davis traveled to Langley Field several times to look at government surplus fire engines. A sealed bid was submitted on three trucks and they were awarded one engine, a 1942 Maxim. Mr. J R Kirk and Mr. Stokes Kirk financed the purchase of this engine.
On January 5th 1955 the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department met in a called meeting and the first roll of the new organization was recorded. At this meeting Mr. J R Kirk was elected President and Mr. Al Saunders was elected as the first Chief of the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department. The group decided to purchase a site centrally located in the community to build the fire station. The land was purchased from the Eley's which gave good access to the area the department would serve. Until a new station could be constructed the engine was kept at N H Byrd's garage. The truck was later moved to F A Spady's garage which became Ronnie Kelly's cabinet shop. In August of 1955 the construction of the new two story firehouse was almost complete.
Until the construction of the station was complete all fires were reported to Chief Al Saunder's home. His wife, Mrs. Georgia Saunders, would then call 3 firefighters and their wives would continue the process.
After completion of the fire station, an alarm was placed on top of the building. A phone was placed at Saunders Supply Company to receive daytime alarms and at Whites Television Shop for nighttime fires. When the alarm was received, either Saunders Supply or Mrs. White would turn a crank which activated the alarm on the station. They would then call the firehouse and let the phone ring until the first fireman arrived at the station. Mrs. N H Byrd later took over the duties of answering the nighttime alarms, a responsibility she held for many years.
The department continued to grow during the next years. Mr. Al Saunders continued to serve as Chief until 1963 when John Kelly was elected to take Chief Saunder's place. During the same year the department purchased a new fire engine. The department worked hard to raise funds to purchase firefighting equipment. Over the years many fish frys, ladies night dances, and fund drives have been held, all of these activities are still done today.
In 1969, another new pumper was purchased at a price of $27,000. Both of these trucks remained in service with our department until 1990 when the department purchased a new pumper, brush truck, and a used tanker from the City of Virginia Beach. They are currently in service with a fire department in Tennessee.
The department continued to grow throughout the 70's and 80's. There were many memorable fires and other emergencies that were handled. Fire departments, especially volunteer departments, don't just put out fires we are here to help our community. An example of this was in June of 1973 when 39 families in the Hobson area lost their domestic water supply. The fire department carried water twice a day to each of these residents until their water was restored.
In 1986 Jerry Saunders was elected as the department's third Fire Chief. Chief Saunders joined the department in 1954.
Due to the increasing call volume the local rescue squads were facing and the distance to many of the locations they had to respond to, this same mindset led the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department to begin to first respond to life threatening medical calls in 1993. We are able to provide life saving care to our community at a fraction of the time it would take an ambulance to respond. Many of our members have various levels of medical training from the EMT-Basic level through Paramedic. A full complement of medical equipment is carried on both of the department's pumpers.
Many years ago firefighters received their training from monthly drills at the station and from gaining knowledge on calls. We now require all of our incoming members to obtain a minimum of Virginia Department of Fire Programs Firefighter I within one year of joining.
In the early 1990's Charles Rose was serving as President of the department. He formed a committee to look into the feasibility of building a new fire station; we had simply out grown the old building. The trucks were larger and there was no room for storage in the current station. Many hours were spent working on the plans and construction.
We acquired the land from the City of Suffolk, and visited many other fire stations to plan our future home. We sold our old fire station and moved to the current facility in 1998. Our department was to pay for half of the construction cost while the city funded the remainder; this is quite an undertaking for a small volunteer fire department. We received support from many organizations including the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club and Richard Bennett Trust, which made it possible to completely pay off our portion of the note.
Over the years, we have worked diligently to upgrade our fire suppression and emergency medical care equipment to a state of the art level.
In January of 2003 Greg Parsons was elected as Fire Chief, this making only the fourth Chief in 50 years. This stability along with the fact that we have several active member with 40+ years coupled with a strong group of younger members allows us to offer a service to our community that everyone can be proud of. We are still all volunteer all the time, since 1954.
The Current Chuckatuck VFD
The current Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department, which recently celebrated it's 60th birthday in 2014, is an independent fire department that operates jointly with the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue.
In May 2017, Chief Jacob Johnson passed the title of Fire Chief to Travis Dortch.
Under Chief Dortch and his slate of Operational Officers (1 Captain and 3 Lieutenants), a roster of roughly 50 members, with a variety of experience, respond to calls for service ranging from emergency medical incidents and motor vehicle collisions, to brush and structural fires nearly daily. Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department operates a first due engine (Engine 29), tanker (Tanker 9), and brush truck (Brush 9) within the limits of it's run district, stretching North on Route 10 to the Isle of Wight County line, South on Route 10 to just past Five Mile Road, Kings Highway covering the Chuckatuck side of the bridge, Everetts, Audobon, and Kirk Road corridors, and a large portion of Crittenden Road. Chuckatuck VFD also provides automatic mutual aid to Isle of Wight County for the Oliver, Longview, Woodland, Cherry Grove, and Riddick Road corridors. Chuckatuck VFD is also incorporated into the City of Suffolk Fire and Rescue's apparatus response matrix, and responds across the city as dispatched.
In May 2017, Chuckatuck VFD further partnered with the City of Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue to ensure that service delivery maintained consistent in Chuckatuck. It was requested of Suffolk that they provide daytime supplemental career staff; currently, Suffolk Fire and Rescue staffs Station 9 with 4 people Monday-Friday, 8am to 5pm.
Current President Brad Whitley leads a Board of Directors (2 Vice Presidents, 1 Treasurer, 1 Secretary, 1 Assistant to the Secretary and Treasurer, and 2 Lay Members) in the administrative and financial decision making for the department.
We currently operate out of the fire station built in 1998, which is located at 300 Kings Highway.
Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department is licensed as an ALS (Advanced Life Support) Non-Transport EMS Agency by the Virginia Office of EMS, which permits our members with EMS certifications to render potentially life saving treatment. Both of our engines are equipped with ALS medical equipment, and many of our members are certified EMS providers, with certifications levels from EMT-Basic to Paramedic.
As of the 2017 Call Report, Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department ran a total of 371 calls for service.