In early 1944, in a small farming community, 3 children left alone in a tenant’s home located on the property of Thelma & Albert Hoffenberth, were playing with matches. This home was located on Rt. 607 just around the corner from Charles & William Fletcher. A fire in the house broke out and despite the efforts of neighbors from surrounding farms, the 3 children who had crawled under a bed to hide, perished. Then on February 14, 1944 the Ashburn School caught fire. It was at this time that concerned members of the community gathered to discuss the establishment of a volunteer fire company. By the end of 1944 the foundation for the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department was laid.
Thelma Hoffenberth wife of the late member Albert Hoffenberth is still alive today, she is 103 years young and is currently living in Florida.
On March 12, 1945, 16 members of the community gathered at the Calvary Baptist Church for the first officially chartered meeting of the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company. Each founding member paid a membership due of $1.00. Nelson Partlow was elected to serve as the first Fire Chief. J.R. Downs was elected the first President, Charles S. Monroe was the first elected Secretary and Baptist Minister, Reverend G.E. Hughes, who conceived the idea to organize the company, was elected to serve as the first Treasurer.
It was at this meeting that the groundwork was set for the future Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department. In attendance were R.E Darnes, Lester Green, Charles Monroe, J.R. Downs, W. J. Hay, Nelson Partlow, Carley Fletcher, Charlie Fletcher, Wm. E. Fletcher, Julian Fouche, The Rev. G.E. Hughes, Ernest Monday, Preston Rollins, H.R. Tillett, and David L. Tucker
Of the 16 men, 2 are still living today. Julian Fouche now 100, resides in Winchester, VA, and past President Preston Rollins 83 years young resides in Florida. Preston Rollins served as President for the company for a total of 4 years and served on the board of directors for several years.
On April 23, 1945 the paper work was completed for the recording and Certificate of Incorporation of the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department.
Within 6 months, the membership had grown from 16 members to 37 members. The first year members consisted of the following individuals:
Samuel Adrian, William Fletcher, C.C. Kirkpatrick, H.R. Rutherford, Charles Alban, Julian Fouche, John E. Kirkpatrick, W.J. Rutherford, O.J. Boone, W.V. German, Charles S. Monroe, Frank L. Sheffield, John G. Gaylor, Lester Green, Ernest L. Monday, Edward Soloman, William L. Costello, William J. Hay, Nelson Partlow, C.R. Tillett, H.E. Daniels, John Hanes, Calvin Partlow, H.R. Tillett, R.E. Darnes, Albert E. Hofferberth, Lucas Phillips, David L. Tucker, Carlie J. Flether, J.R. Kerns, C.R. Robey and Herbert Wortman
Charles R. Fletcher
Even though the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department was not officially recognized as an organization until 1945, Ashburn has been serving the community since 1944.
Since there was no firehouse to meet at, the members met in several locations, including the basement of the Calvary Baptist Church, the Masonic Lodge Hall and the School House.
In Late September 1945, the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department held its first carnival and for many years thereafter, the carnival came to Ashburn annually. The carnival would arrive on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday and stay for a week. The carnival was located at the baseball field behind the old Ashburn Elementary School on Partlow Road.
On November 27, 1945, the members purchased their first fire truck, a 1929 open cab American-LaFrance pumper for a cost of $3,225.00 According to Billy Costello, “the LaFrance wasn’t much, but it worked.” The truck was kept in a variety of places throughout the community. In good weather it was kept in Mr. Partlow’s shed and in bad weather it was kept in Charlie Fletcher’s cow barn. According to Charlie “the cows generated enough heat to keep the fire truck from freezing up.” Of the 60 years that Charles R. Fletcher served with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department he served as Assistant Chief in 1976, as President for a total of 7 years and served as Captain until the late 1990’s.
By the end of 1945 the company had raised a total of $4,342,41. This money was raised from membership dues, contributions, a meat sale, and their first carnival. Their expenses that year including the cost of the 1929 American-LaFrance were $3,558.85. During the first years most of the donations received, cash or otherwise were made by the members themselves.
In 1946, the company began taking applications for membership and by the end of 1946 they had 58 members. The majority of these members were 25 years of age or younger.
The company first began keeping records of their calls in 1946. During that year they recorded “11” fire calls. If a call went out the Partlow’s would close the store, the Fletchers’ would stop milking cows, others would stop bailing hay, it didn’t matter what they were doing, members would stop whatever is was and go to help their neighbor. Not only did they run fire calls they also ran other types of calls, such as pumping water from cellars, pumping water from drains, rescuing farm animals, etc. During one call they used a piece of fire hose to rescue a horse from a well. Up until 1989 the members kept a running log of the yearly fire calls by writing the numbers on a chalkboard which was located in the old bays at the fire house. By 1988 the call volume had gone from 11 fire calls a year to 605 calls a year. Each year as the Ashburn area continued to grow the number of calls continued to increase. Today the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department runs over 4,500 Fire & EMS calls a year.
In the early years the fire department installed a phone on the house of Frances and William Costello. It was up the Billy or his wife Frances to take the calls and then run over the Partlow’s store to sound the alarm. Later on a wire was run from the Partlow’s store to Mr. Costello’s house and a button was connected to the house do the Costello’s could sound the alarm from their home, Mr. Costello, said that “Until the county helped the companies get radios you never knew for sure what you had, or who would be at the scene when you arrived.” Not only did Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department run fire calls in the Ashburn area, they were also called on many occasions to assist the Leesburg Fire Department and the Herndon Fire Department.
Billy served as Captain when the company first formed and by 1948 he was elected Chief, a position he was reelected to for the next 16 years. Of the 60 years that Billy Costello served with the company, he served as Chief for a total of 20 years.
On October16, 1946 the firehouse lot was purchased for $350.00, and the firefighters began construction on the two story firehouse, $50.00 of the lot fee was returned to the company as a donation. The building was completed in 1947. Money used to help pay for the construction was raised from an area of 15 to 20 miles around the town. The building materials were purchased from local merchants and the construction of the building was done mainly by the members.
The Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department raised money through carnivals, car raffles, meat sales, turkey shoots, bingo parties, auctions, barn dances, horse shows donations and membership dues. The carnival was one of Ashburn’s biggest fund raisers. At that time, they received very little money from the county. The county paid the company based on mileage, $1.00 a mile. At that time the members were averaging about 75 miles per year. Other than the mileage payment, no other payments were received from the county. Members did not receive any compensation for their efforts and each member purchased his own uniform. Not only did members have to buy their own uniforms, members also donated cash and other items such as calves, pigs and even a peacock as prizes for their fundraisers. In December 1948, the company had a Christmas party for the children in the community. Several days after the party, it was discovered that some of the children in the community had been left out, so the members made contributions to buy candy and delivered it to those children.
In 1947, Gertrude (Gertie) Fletcher was deputized as a firefighter of the company by the then Chief. According to Gertie, “Chief Carlie Fletcher arrived at the station one day for a call and no one else was there, so he called for her to come out to get on the piece, she tried to explain to him the she was not a firefighter, but he said to her, “I deputize you as a firefighter and if I deputize you than you’re a firefighter and you have to go, go get up here in the truck” “and she did.” Although she did not run any calls and was not an actual member of the fire department, she was still considered by the members to be Ashburn’s first female firefighter.
In 1947, the company purchased their first car to raffle for a cost of $1,504.02. They were able to collect $2,967.75 from the raffle tickets making them a profit of $1,463.73. It is believed this was won by an Ashburn/Broad Run resident Larry Cockrell. In 1951 two vehicles were raffled off, a car and a truck.
On February 16, 1948 the Ladies Auxiliary was formed. The officers elected to the Ladies Auxiliary were Thelma Hoffenberth – President, Mrs. William Rutherford – Vice President, Mrs. Redman – Treasurer, and Mrs. H.J. Omera – Secretary. The men would inform the ladies of what items they needed and the ladies would help to raise the money. By the end of 1948, the ladies had raised funds as a result of a rummage sale, food sales, flower sales, ice cream festivals, a Stanley party, refreshments sold at movies, a box supper, a cake walk and their monthly penny march. In case you are wondering what a penny march is, at every meeting each member would contribute a penny to the collection thus being called the penny march. By March 15, 1949, the Ladies Auxiliary had raised enough money through their fundraisers to donate $1,000.00 to the Fire Department to help pay for the new fire truck.
In late 1948, the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Company agreed to have 12 street lights installed in the town of Ashburn. The annual electrical cost for these lights was estimated to be approximately $240.00. The county agreed to pay 2/3rds of the electrical cost. The remaining 1/3 was paid by the residents of Ashburn. Each year members and residents would contribute anywhere from $2.00 to $5.00 to the streetlight fund.
In August, 1948 they purchased a new 1948 GMC Pumper for $7,283.06 and in 1955 they purchased an International Pumper for $14,289.45. Both pieces of equipment, fully modernized, represented an outlay of about $22,000.00. A portion of the money used to pay for the 1948 GMC was donated by the members. The company retired the 1929 American La-France in 1955.
In 1948, the company held its first dance, the dances were held in the Poland’s barn but were later moved to the Ruitan Club. Dances for the teenagers were held in the upper level of the fire house.
In 1949, the company raffled a television that they purchased for $195.00. They collected $896.50, making them a profit of $701.50.
On February 7, 1949, the by-laws were changed to include Chief and Assistant Chief on the board of directors. On February 11, 1949, Ashburn held its first oyster supper. This tradition continued until 2002. Also in 1949, the company held its first turkey shoot.
In the early 1950’s Melvin Partlow took over the duties of the Treasurer and maintained this position until the mid 1970’s. He would also run the Partlow store alone if past life member Calvin Partlow was out on a call for a long period of time. During the 61 years that Melvin has served with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department he served as President for 1 year, Secretary for 1 year and Treasurer for approximately 20 years.
In October, 1954, Ashburn held its first Halloween parade.
In 1959, William (Billy) L. Costello, Robert (Bobby) T. Howser & Sunny C. Flynn were sent to fire school in Williamsburg, Virginia for a week long training class. Up until then Loudoun County had no organized training. So in late 1959 the first fire training school, initiated by Billy Costello was started. Billy Costello not only organized the training for the firefighters, he also helped in the design of many of the first pieces of fire apparatus.
The Central alarm system was established in 1960, In August 1961, this system was tied in with the Fairfax County alarm system, thus enabling Ashburn to provide more adequate service to lower Loudoun County and provide additional help to upper Fairfax County.
As of October 3, 1961 the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department had 55 members, its building and equipment was debt free and there was a little nest egg to start its expansion program. Ashburn’s slogan back then was “You call – We come.” By this time they had a trophy case filled with awards, for being the best appearing and having the best equipped apparatus.
In 1962 the company purchased a 1952 Dodge Power Wagon.
In 1963 the department added an addition to the existing structure and they were seeing a need for a 4wheel drive brush truck.
In 1964 Warren Rowland and Richard (Dick) Ramaley, Sr. joined the Fire Department. Shortly thereafter Dick became Chief Engineer and Warren became the Electrician. Both individuals have served with the department for 43 years.
In 1967 the department placed in service a 1967 International truck. This was the last red fire truck ever purchased by the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department. All apparatus purchased thereafter was the now current colors of yellow & white.
According to Bobby Howser his most memorable experience was in 1968 when a call went out for a fire in the barns at the old Belmont Plantation. He said all the barns were connected and they knew that in one of those buildings a large amount of ammunition, shells, black powder and machine guns was being stored, but no one knew for sure which barn it was. Fortunately, they were able to put out the fire before it reached the location of the ammunition, which was just one stall away. Of the 54 years Robert Howser has served with the department he served as Chief in 1968 and as President for a total of 5 years.
In 1969 as soon as Charles T (Tommy) Fletcher, turned 18, he like many others at that age, joined the department. Back then it was like a right of passage, you turned 18 and you joined the fire department. Of the 38 years that he has served with the department he held the position of either Secretary or Treasurer from the mid 1970’s to the late 1980’s.
In 1970, Dave Thompson joined the department. Not only did he donate numerous hours as a firefighter, he also worked close with Dick Ramaley, Sr. in keeping the vehicles and the building maintained. During Dave’s 37 years of service, he served as Captain, Assistant Chief in 1975 and was the elected electrician for many years.
In 1971, the then Chief, Walton B. Eamich, Sr. was instrumental in the start of a Junior Fire Department for young men 15 through 17 years of age. Prior to the establishment of the Junior Fire Department, anyone entering the department had to be at least 18 years of age. The first group of Junior members included, David Breeden, Bruce Eamich, Jon (Jack) Harding, Jeff Roach, Jack Rooney and John Simpson. In Order to be a junior member they were required to abide by the companies bylaws and maintain passing grades in their school work. Their progress was monitored closely by members of the company. If a fire broke out in the Ashburn area during school hours these young men were allowed to leave the class room to assist. Throughout their 36 years of service, both Bruce and Jack, have served in the capacity of 1st Chief for a total of 12 years. During his reign as Chief, he organized monthly training drills, thus vastly improving the training and safety within the department. He strongly believed in teaching the members to “REMEMBER THE BASICS”. He was also instrumental the upgrading gear. In 2003 Walt was presented with the Fire Service Hall of Fame Award for his involvement with the Fire-Rescue Association and in training programs.
In 1975, the first group of members interested in becoming emergency medical technicians set out to become certified. This group included Danny Corder who is now a career Captain in Loudoun County. Ricky Kehr, and Richard Ramaley, Jr. The second group included Melvin Byrne and Floyd Simpson. Of the 33 years that Melvin has served with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department, he served as Chief for a total of 6 years and as President for a total of 7 years. He is currently the department’s Deputy Chief. Of the 47 years Floyd Simpson has served with the Department, he served as President for a total of 3 years.
In 190 the company purchased a 1980 Hahn. This vehicle is still in the possession of the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department today. It is currently used as a ceremonial fire engine. This fire engine has transported many of the good men and women of the department including Firefighter/President Calvin Partlow, Chief Allen Polin, Chief Ray Muth, Sr., Chief Billy Costello, Chaplain Debbie Myers and Firefighter/Vice President Stewart Weller.
In 1986 the County points system went into effect. At that time all active members were given 1 year of credit for 2 years served prior to 1986. From 1987 to present, active members are now given 1 year credit for each year served.
In 1989, Anne Marie Mason was the first female to join the fire department and soon became Ashburn’s first official female firefighter. In 1990, she was awarded the Lifesaving Medal for having cleared the airway of her neighbor’s 20 month-old child. Of the 18 years that Anne Marie has served with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department, she served as President for a total of 4 years and Vice President for a total of 4 years.
In 1989 Kenneth Lawson recognized that the company was in need of additional help during the day. He was instrumental in getting staffing from the county to help the volunteers cover the daytime hours. Of the 36 years Ken has served with the department he served as Chief for a total of 7 years. He has served on the board of directors for numerous years and is currently serving as 1st Captain.
As Ashburn began to grow in the early 1990’s past life member Ray Muth, Sr., was instrumental in approaching the builders in the community and implementing the proffer system. As a result of this, the company was able to purchase more equipment and expand the station. Of the 36 years that Ray served with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department, he served as Chief for a total of 10 years and as President for a total of 10 years. Ray was also inducted into the Fire Service Hall of Fame.
In 1992 Ashburn received its first ambulance, a 1992 Ford F350. The first medics to staff the ambulance came from Sterling, these individuals were Tim Callahan, Robin Davis and Robert Burk. The first Ashburn Rescue Officers were Don Kilpatrick & Tim Callahan.
In 1993 another expansion to the building was completed. Most of the plumbing was done by life member Bill Groot and most of the tile work throughout this building was donated by life member, Stewart Weller, who passed away in February, 2007. Of the 37 years that Stewart served with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department, he served approximately 20 years on the board of directors. During his time he also served as Vice President. Bill Groot has served with the department for 40 years. He served as Fire Marshal in 1969.
In 1995, the company changed its name from the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Company to the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department.
In 2005, the Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department opened the doors to its second station, Moorefield Station 23. At this time there are plans being made to build another station in the Ashburn area.
Around 2010 the Lansdowne Safety Center was opened as Station 22. The Moorefield Station was taken over by the county 24/7 and AVFRD took on Station 22 as its second volunteer station in Ashburn.
In 2014 the original station was razed and construction began on the new Station 6.
“The Tent” was put up to house apparatus and two trailers rented for sleeping quarters and offices.
The grand opening of the NEW Station 6 to the public took place on May 15, 2016.