I learned something tonight. A tornado ripped through Roanoke back in 1974. However this was only 1 of an outbreak of tornados that year. There were 148 tornados, including Five F5, in the period of 2 days that year. (Read More)

Check out the video as well. It has a couple of shots of Roanoke Fire Department Apparatus. The video also charts the tornados path and where it touched down.(Video here)

Here is an interesting Roanoke History link: The Lost Engines of Roanoke. Several months ago, a fellow firefighter asked me if I had seen the old Norfolk & Western Steam Locomotives. I have seen them, but not as close as the pictures on the website show. Check out the site and navigate the pictures of Locomotives 917, 1118, 1134, and 1151. There are pictures of the locomotives now and the locomotives back in their day.

I only wish that Virginia Scrap Iron and Metal Company had gotten a hold of our old horse drawn steam engines and kept them around. You never know what else may be out there. Don’t forget that Local 1132 has been granted permission to remove the 1918 model water tower which is still at Cycle Systems. I guess that is our little part of history which correlates with The Lost Engines of Roanoke.

Check out this new site I found. It chronicles historical fires and the like. It seems to be an up and coming blog related to the fire service. Check out the history on the Maltese Cross. There is also information on the Star of Life.

Fire Service History:

History of the Maltese Cross
I ran across this article tonight while looking for another article to post on. The entire article is gleaned from another website from along time ago, I wish I could reference and give proper credit to the original author, web-host, and the contributors. Some people have asked about the origins of the fire service. This symbol is an ancient representation of the fire service.
The Maltese Cross

The eight-point Maltese Cross is the international symbol of the fire service’s willingness to make great
sacrifices in order to protect others from the ravages of fire. It is a badge of courage and honor and it story is
hundreds of years old.

This honored symbol originated with a group of eleventh century knights who were serving in a Jerusalem
hospital. They became known as the Order of Knights Hospitaller and later became the Knights of St. John. This
charitable organization cared for the ill with great compassion.(Read More)

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I was invited to sit in on Roanoke’s 125th Anniversary Committee meeting on Tuesday. I had written an email to Mayor Nelson Harris to explain certain events that will occur next year in relation to the Fire Department. Mayor Harris forwarded the email to the committee Chairman Chip Woodrum. Chip contacted me and invited me to the meeting.

I did not have any expectations going into the meeting. I was an outsider, and did not have a voice on what to do. I was merely invited to give my two cents on the Fire Department. Unfortunately it did not go the way I was hoping.

The 125th Committee is very busy with numerous ideas. They have a long process in front of them.

I feel as though the RFFA and Fire Department will need to celebrate it’s milestones and have an emphasis on Roanoke’s 125th. This is kind of what the committee was hinting at. The businesses and citizens can plan events and incorporate the 125th theme. Instead of the 125th committee planning everything.

Remember that next year, 2007, will be the 100th year of Fire Station #1 and the 100th year of a fully paid Fire Department.

I know that the Fire Department is planning on forming a committee to look into certain festivities.

I wish the 125th Committee luck in their task. I hope that the Citizens are able to help pull of certain events.

One last patch to be added to the collection. As far as I know, I now have all of the Roanoke Fire-EMS related patches (actually they belong to the RFFA). I do not have all of the REMS ones in case any of you were wondering. If anyone comes across any others, please let me know. If you notice the picture with Johnny Price below in front of Ladder 9, this is after they renumbered Ladder 4 to Ladder 9. When the Ladder trucks were first numbered they were numbered in order. Now they take the number of the Station were they are located. Battalion Chief Billy Obenchain created this patch when he worked at Station 9.
Hoekay, So this is the picture I have been seeking for a while. Although this is not a very good image. I had found the image on the VT imagebase, but I lost it somehow. Special thanks to Gavin Miller of Troutville Fire for delivering this CD with very important images to me. I am indebted. There are definitely some great images on this CD. We have a lot of them, but there are some that fill in gaps for us.

The picture above is of the Test of First Size Continental Steam Engine Roanoke Va. Sept. 5 1909 in Roanoke City. Although it is hard to see, the test was to show City Council that the stream made from the engine could actually reach the tallest part of the Greene Memorial United Methodist Church. If the Church seems familiar, it is still standing at the corner of Church Ave. and 2nd Street, adjacent to the Municipal Building.

Below is a picture of the men either right before or right after the test of the Steam engine. Shown is the apparatus. This is Steamer #1 stationed at Fire Station #1.

If anyone has a better picture of the top picture or any other for that matter, I would love to copy them and get them back to you. Thanks.

These are some other patches I have received, let me know if you have any others.

Below are the Patches of the Roanoke Fire Department, Roanoke Fire-EMS Department, and Roanoke City EMS. I do not have the exact dates for everything, and I am relying on my readers to assist me in documenting them. If you know of any to add, let me know. I do have one more patch to add, but I do not have the image of it yet. So consider it a surprise. As far as I know, the first patch of the Roanoke Fire Department was the first one below. Prior to that patch, the men wore Class “A” (Suit) type dress. The men would take off their coats and put on a fire coat. If you go way back to the Volunteers (1882-1907) the men might have worn overalls, or suits depending. The badges that the men wore were a different story. Currently we are given a badge when we are hired. When we are promoted we are given a different one. The thing is that there is no personalization. No badge number like they had in the past. You aren’t allowed to keep your firefighter badge when you get promoted. I think that if you had a badge number, and a badge that had the number on it, that it would mean a lot to the firefighters.

Roanoke Fire Department
? – 1970′s
This Patch is referred to as the Sealtest Patch because it looks like the same as the Sealtest Logo shown to the right.

Roanoke Fire Department
Firefighter’s Patch
Late 1970′s – 1996
This Patch is referred to as the “Blue Patch”. If you were hired before the merger you are a “Blue Patch” according to some.

Roanoke Fire Department
Officer’s Patch
Late 1970′s – 1996

Roanoke Fire Department
Chief’s Patch
Late 1970′s – 1996

Roanoke Fire Department
Administrative Patch

Roanoke Fire-EMS Department

Roanoke City EMS

Roanoke Fire-EMS
Roanoke Regional Airport
Airport Rescue Fire Fighting

Roanoke Fire Department
Roanoke Regional Airport
Airport Rescue Fire Fighting
Pre- Merge

Roanoke EMS – Volunteers and Part-time EMS

Thanks to Travis Collins for scanning these images. Look for them soon at The Maurice Wiseman Project.
This is a picture of the 1918 watertower. I have attached the most recent post on the truck. I will try to post more pictures soon.

“I just got back from Cycle Systems in SW Roanoke and I have good news and not so good news. The good news is that I have found the 1918 Water Tower that was housed at Station #10 (now #2 on Noble Ave.) This truck was a one of a kind for the city and it still has the wooden wheels and solid rubber tires on it. However it is in bad shape. I am not sure what if anything was scrapped on it, however the body panels are gone and it is pretty much just the frame. It still has the motor, water tower, gears, even some hose on it, but it is completely covered in rust. Can it be restored? I am not sure, I am not in that business, however it is worth looking into. I would like to thank Pete Hristov and Jay Brenner at Cycle Systems with their assistance in showing me the truck. There is also the tractor part of a tiller truck also 1918 model next to it. I will attach pictures in the future hopefully.”

Engine 3 at Station 3
Photo taken August 1984
Photo courtesy of Lt. Baron Gibson 6-C

This is Engine 3 in 1984. The engine was most recently known as R-901 in our reserve fleet. This Engine was just taken out of service for good and sits at the City garage. This truck was repainted red to match the rest of the fleet. I am not sure when the switch was made. If you know when they started buying red trucks please let me know.

Here is a good picture of me getting a schooling from Pete Smith at Station #8. Pete is the oldest living Retired Firefighter from the City of Roanoke. Pete worked here from 1942 til 1974 and is 93 years old. Next year he will have been drawing a pension for the same amount of time that he worked here. Pete lives near Station #8 and stops by just about everyday at least once. He is always welcome and likes hearing what is going on. If you ever have a chance to work at Station #8 find time to sit down and talk to Pete. If he doesn’t stop by then ask the guys where he lives and go talk to him. He loves telling stories.
Pete’s real name is Elmer Elijah Smith. He was a Captain and spent 20 years at station #3. He was moved from station #8 until station #11 opened and he was there the day it opened. When Pete came to the department he was filling a spot opened from a firefighter going to the War. When Pete was a newly hired firefighter he worked with a guy who was a firefighter when the horses pulled the steam engines (late teens).
Pete is a great source for information on the past, so if you get a chance then sit down and talk.
I just got back from Cycle Systems in SW Roanoke and I have good news and not so good news. The good news is that I have found the 1918 Water Tower that was housed at Station #10 (now #2 on Noble Ave.) This truck was a one of a kind for the city and it still has the wooden wheels and solid rubber tires on it. However it is in bad shape. I am not sure what if anything was scrapped on it, however the body panels are gone and it is pretty much just the frame. It still has the motor, water tower, gears, even some hose on it, but it is completely covered in rust. Can it be restored? I am not sure, I am not in that business, however it is worth looking into. I would like to thank Pete Hristov and Jay Brenner at Cycle Systems with their assistance in showing me the truck. There is also the tractor part of a tiller truck also 1918 model next to it. I will attach pictures in the future hopefully.

If you all didn’t know this is the building that is supposed to be built at Franklin and Elm. It will be the new Fire Department Headquarters which will include Ladder 1, Engine 3, Medic 3, Battalion 1, and RS-1. Fire Station 1 and 3 will be closed down signaling the end of an era. The era of 100 years of firefighting history in the City of Roanoke. The RFFA is currently making t-shirts of Station #1 then and now which will turn out great I am sure.
I was thinking of making a simple t-shirt, something not to expensive, that anyone could buy. The t-shirts would not be for any fund raising purposes and would be sold at cost. The idea behind them would be to raise awareness of the current plan to close down the station. I am trying to think up a good catchy phrase along the lines of “Keep Station #1 open”. I am sure some of you can come up with something a little better than that. So let us here it.
If you do not know it anyone can post a comment and give their idea. Just click the comments button below the post and add your 2 cents and click submit.
Yet another excellent article written about the historical Fire Station #1. I hope that people enjoy reading about this Station, and that they know the plans are to change it into an EMS museum. That is right. Over the past 30 years there have been plans drawn up for several different scenarios. The history museum wants to get their hands on it to turn it into a museum, the EMS Museum currently at Tanglewood Mall wants to get a hold of it and turn it into an EMS Museum (It has never housed and ambulance in 100 years), and private developers would like to get a hold of it to turn it into a restaurant. Those are the ideas that I have read about in the articles the RFFA possesses. I will tell you what I think. I think that they should leave it alone. I think that it is perfect the way it is. For almost 100 years Firefighters have ate meals, slept, run fires, built fire engines (that is right), made hose appliances, kept horses, dispatched, rang the bell, painted the roof, fed squirrels, lifted hay into the loft, laughed, cried, and continued a tradition that needs to be kept intact. These Firefighters have answered every call, every question, every everything and only asked for a fair shake in return. The Firefighters of Roanoke City are asking for just that, a fair shake. Maybe we should sit back and look at the other options before making a hasty decision. I will be posting a picture of the new Fire Headquarters to be built at the corner of Elm and Franklin in the next week or so.
I apologize for being off topic and posting current events. This is new to me and I will continue my historical quest as soon as this Golf Tournament is played on Thursday. I have also put the Local’s website on a little bit of a hold. Unfortunately my family is also feeling the pressure of this tournament this year. But it will be over soon. I would like to say that next year someone else will hopefully be putting on the golf tournament. I will still be the MDA Coordinator for the Local, however I will be focusing most of my time with the RFFA on Communications. As the Communications Chairman I will be keeping the website up to date and members informed. Hopefully this will curb some more enthusiasm and interest within the RFFA. If anyone is interested in assisting with the MDA please contact me. There are several other events which members have expressed interest in having with the proceeds benefiting the MDA. A Bachelor/Bachelorette Auction has been discussed over the past 2 years and is a very good possibility. There are several FD’s in the U.S. that put these on and make some money for various Charities. Other events include a 3 on 3 basketball tournament, miniature golf tournament, Firefighter competition, softball tournament, and others. I can only do so much, however if there was a coordinator for each event we could put them all on.

The Fill the Boot Campaign will be in the end of August so look for more information to follow.

Oh yeah and don’t forget about the MDA Cookout at the summer camp on August 3rd. Contact me for any questions and information.

This is station #10 which is now known as station #2. This picture was probably taken in the early 50′s. The vehicle on the far right is a 1918 model as well as the water tower 3rd from the left. I am not sure but the 1st on on the left looks to be a little later than the 1918 models and the rest look to be newer possibly late 40′s early 50′s. Just thought I would give you a fix from the past. Jenkins at #2 got a pretty good picture of the water tower. I believe I had posted something about it in a past post. It had wooden wheels and might have even had solid tires. All of the 1918 models came with solid tires, at a later date the department replaced them with inflatable tires. I am trying to locate the water tower now. I understand that it was at cycle systems and last seen there about 10 years ago.

Here is a picture of the helmet. I have attached the original posting of this helmet.
So today as I sift through the numerous articles that Captain Wiseman has left us I notice something, something unique, something I doubted, something I have in my possession. I acquired a leather helmet a couple of years ago from a Captain who was getting rid of some of his fire memorabilia. The Captain stated that the helmet was from 1884 he thought and that it was from Roanoke. He said he got it from a retired District Chief. I doubted the whole 1884 date. I mean how could this thing have made it that long. After all this helmet is not in the best shape. It is green, the leather is old, and the eagle on top is coming off. The helmet looks like it might fit a little child. I thought maybe it shrunk, maybe they were form fitted to the head instead of having any protection in them other than the leather. After all the original reason for the helmets was to shed water.
So here I find an article from August 19, 1972. The article is about, get this, the Roanoke Historical Society trying to acquire Station #1. Even back then they thought that it would only be a couple of years. They speak of an Eric Miller who was or maybe still is a Salem Firefighter. He is also a fire buff and let the Society use some of his memorabilia for a display at 17 East Kirk Ave. The picture is what caught my attention. There it was, the helmet, in the picture. My helmet, or at least the one that I received from that Captain along with a scale model of a steam engine. The caption under the picture reads “Model steam engine stands beside fire helmet worn by the late Joseph T. Engleby as assistant fire chief for Roanoke. The eagle topped helmet is on loan to the historical society from J.T. Engleby III, and dates to around 1884. WOW.
So the information passed on to me was correct. However I wonder how in the heck did that helmet end up in my hands. I mean this is a very historical piece of the fire department. I guess it is fitting that I ended up with it now that I have undertaken the history of the department.
Now I realize that someone out there might be missing this helmet. Maybe the Engleby family, maybe the historical society. If anyone else has information on this helmet please let me know. I will attach a picture as soon as I get the helmet out of storage.

Here is a picture of Station #3. I believe this to be a Davis photo. The interesting thing about this picture is first of all notice the hose tower and second of all notice the ornamental piece on the roof line. Both of these are missing now. The hose tower was removed and the ornamental piece fell off in the 1950′s I believe. Pete Smith brought this to my attention and said that he was there when it fell off. I thought that it was interesting.

Here is the Sanborn Map of the Alert Fire Company #4 located at 1219 Wise Ave. S.E. across from the Virginia Brewery. It is a little hard to decipher in this picture but the station is located on the corner of an alley way between/below the words (WISE and AVE.) on the map.

Here is the Sanborn Map for the Junior Hose Company #2 located at the Northeast corner of 3rd and Campbell. The Juniors were located in the “Old Rorrer Hall” however I am unclear as to whether this is the location of the “Old Rorrer Hall”. I am still researching this.