Welcome back to RoanokeFire.com. This blog was one of the first of it’s kind on the internet, beginning in March of 2005. The site went silent in 2010, when then editor/author Rhett Fleitz decided to move on to create FireCritic.com.

Please welcome Nate Camfiord as the brand new editor here at The Roanoke Fire Blog. I wish Nate the best in he endeavors as he uncovers the Roanoke Valley and beyond in photos and stories.

Nate has the ability to capture a story within a single photograph. Nate is a photo columnist in the Fire & EMS Virginia Magazine (2011-present). His work (cover photo and images throughout) can also be seen in the new book “25 to Survive” (PennWell Publishing/Fire Engineering). Two videos can be found below that also feature his work.

Here is a little bit about Nate:

After spending most of my life in the DC/Northern Virginia area I relocated to Roanoke in July of 2012. After years as an operational Firefighter/Paramedic I had to “hang up my gear” for the last time in 2011 due to a rare neurological condition. Since then my primary focus (which initially began in 2008) has been Fire Service photography. It’s been on the job training. As time passed I realized my true passion in terms of photography has been to tell “The Fireman’s Story”… in as many ways as possible.

When I moved to Roanoke I was blown away by the Fire Service in this area. I sensed so much pride, commitment, tradition, dedication and brotherhood. As I said to a friend “The Fire Service here in Roanoke is the best kept secret in the state”. I am both honored and humbled that Rhett Fleitz is willing to hand over Roanokefire.com to me. I hope that in time I can earn your trust, develop a positive reputation and tell YOUR story. It’s one that deserves to be told.

Most respectfully, Nate Camfiord

Please do me a favor in welcoming Nate to his new role as editor/author/photographer here at RoanokeFire.com. You can contact Nate at 5bucksamanphoto@gmail.com.

- Rhett Fleitz

It has been busy for Roanoke firefighters recently. After the funerals for Chris Brown, Warren Hawley, and Stick Walters, firefighters found themselves settling back into the grind.

  • There have been several fires in the area
  • Roanoke County’s new Station 1 opened up
  • County Ladder 5 was wrecked and is being fixed
  • Station 1 was hit by a car
  • Cluster meetings….they should really rename those!
  • City is going through interviews
  • Battalion Chief promotions coming up next week maybe
  • Lt, 1st Lt., and Captain promotional testing happening soon

C-shifts last day was a fun one! Captain Wines writes about Todd “multi-media” Harris on Engine 9 blog! Needless to say that no one likes an open mic! We tested the hose on Engine 13 and had help from Engine 9 and Engine 2 packing it back on the truck. The process took most of the day while running calls in between.

In the middle of the day we ran a call for a vehicle vs. building! This time the vehicle won. Someone decided to turn Domino’s pizza into a drive thru! Thanks to Engine 5 and Medic 2 for the assistance. A little bit different outcome than when the car lost when it ran into station 1 here. All of the fun ended with a Haz Mat response to Lexington for a fuel spill. There is nothing quite like transferring to another station at 1am to fill in! No big deal though….

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This morning, IAFF Local 1132 members hosted a breakfast in honor of retired firefighters from the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department (although all were hired and most retired when it was still the Roanoke Fire Department). The breakfast was attended by about 50 firefighters, a couple of spouses/relatives, and a handful of helpful Local 1132 members. The highlight was having Bob Gillespie attend. Bob will be 95 in a couple of months and is the oldest living retired firefighter. There were so many firefighters in attendance who do not get to see one another on a regular basis. The guys loved being around each other and to tell stories on each other.

The Retirees normally meet on the second Tuesday of every month for a breakfast at K&W Cafeteria. Our breakfast took the place of the normal breakfast.

Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers stopped by to say hello as well as Roanoke Fire Fighters Association President Rodney Jordan and Roanoke Fire-EMS Chief David Hoback.

The event was put on by Captain Willie Wines Jr. (C-Shift VP) and most of his crew from Station 9 C-Shift. Thanks to all who helped including Robert Reid, Rachel Winter, Ben Obaugh, Scott Boone, Craig Sellers, Baron Gibson, Rodney Jordan, and Willie Wines Sr.

I must admit that you don’t really know about our fire department until you have hung out with these guys a couple of times. Enjoy the pictures and video.

Editors note: you are getting the videos in their entirety because I have not learned how to edit them yet. Give me some time and I will catch up to the technology! I have a camcorder that records in HD, but I lose some of the quality when uploading to youtube. I hope to figure this out in the future to make it better.

Video of the Retirees getting settled in and catching up.

Captain Wines welcoming the retirees.

Pete Price reminiscing over the past. Great stories!

Kicking off the 3-Day Jubilee of Dr. Edward T. Burton’s retirement – Deputy Chief Ralph Tartaglia presents a certificate to Dr. Burton for serving as Chaplain for Roanoke City’s Fire/EMS department.

I have added the firehouses to the site. If you navigate above, you will see “Firehouses” in the navigational bar. Once you “mouse” over the text, it will drop down and you will see each firehouse 1-14. I have added most, but not all of the firehouses that have ever existed. I posted the stations numerically, and individually listed the firehouses chronologically starting with the first. If you see a firehouse missing, let me know. You will notice I am missing some dates and I am happy to receive feedback on which ones. Please send in any photos or information you would like to share.

I know I need

  • Firehouse 4 (across from current address)
  • Firehouse 13 (once located behind current address)
  • Firehouse 15 (once located at Woodrum field that was a trailer *pretty sure it was 15)
  • I also want to add in the EMS Stations (REMS, Williamson Road, and the others)
  • I also am planning on adding the training tower, training center, various sites of administration, and the Union Building

Let me know if you think of anything else.

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Next on the list is apparatus. Wish me luck with that, we are probably talking about 100′s of apparatus.

Roanoke City was awarded $302,424.00 in Operations and Safety in the latest round of Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

Does anyone know what this is for? I have not heard and I am interested.

The Roanoke Fire EMS Department has many committees. For the most part, the committees are very effective. In the more recent years, the recommendations of the committees have been agreed upon by Administration. The most common reason for non-compliance with committee recommendations has been budget constraints. Usually, this is taken care of up front when Admin. gives certain criteria for the committees to follow. This criteria is usually budget driven.

It hasn’t always been that way. I won’t delve deep into the certain issues which committees have been rendered useless due to veto by Administration, however the Quints is one issue where the committees were backed into a corner and were uncomfortable with the outcome.

Examples of Roanoke’s committees are the turnout gear committee, uniform committee, apparatus committee (two actually – one for fire and one fore ems vehicles), training committee, airpack committee, and many others. Some meet regularly, others like the airpack committee were kind of a one time thing to decide on new airpacks.

The Charleston Fire Department (SC) is facing the very worse for the newly formed committees which were suggested by the panel overseeing the reformation of the department. These committees have been overruled by their Chief. Chief Thomas, who has been identified as the root of many problems in the department by many inside and outside of the department, went along with the recommendations for forming committees. However, when given the recommendations by the committees, Chief Thomas has decided not to implement the recommendations and do whatever he felt like. Basically, the committee members felt as though Chief Thomas had wasted their time and according to some; returned to the dictator role he had been posturing for the past 16+ years in the job.

This is not healthy. The system we have is healthy. Although we cannot have everything we want, the firefighters in Roanoke have figured out that through committee involvement we can compromise on what equipment we have to work with. This system has been very beneficial to the firefighters, giving them a sense of worth in the department and offering them the input into equipment which could mean the matter of life or death while on the job. The flip side of the coin would be Administration deciding on this key equipment while being removed from the day to day operations in which we use them. What does it matter to an Incident commander, who is standing outside, of what airpack we have on. It doesn’t directly effect them. Just as the firefighters don’t order office supplies equipment for Administration because we don’t use them.

There are issues on the committee level too though. Many believe that a lot of the committee members do it for one reason only (to make themselves look good). I cannot say that is not true. There are some who appear to be in that situation. However, for the most part it seems as though the firefighters who are involved in committees do so for the simple reason of understanding that they can be part of the solution. The other issue with committees is that many firefighters have been unable to get involved in certain committees due to some firefighters being involved in more than one. All I can say is the next time there is a sign up for a committee, have your company officer put in a good word for you.

As for Charleston, from my point of view I think that there is one simple answer to reform. That answer is to get a new Chief. I am not saying it will be a cure all. But from what I have read, and I have been following it since the tragedy, it would be a great place to start.

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department responded to a hazardous materials incident on May 29, 2007 at 941 Industry Dr.

The call was received through the 9-1-1 Center at approximately 9:02 p.m. The response of three Engines, two Ladder trucks, one Medic Unit, the EMS Captain, the Hazardous Materials Team and a Battalion Chief for a total of 22 personnel responded to the scene. The incident was under control at 9:32 p.m.

When crews arrived they found that a 1,000 lb. propane cylinder was leaking from the fill hose. The incident happened when a fork-lift was filling from the fill hose and ruptured the line. Fire crews responding to the scene arrived and evacuated the building. They then called the Hazardous Materials Team. The ruptured tank was on the exterior of the building.

When the Hazardous Materials Team arrived, a cold zone was established and the team began their investigation. They cut the tank off in order to stop the leak and monitored the area until it was deemed safe. The building was then turned over to the owner.

There were no injuries during this incident to civilians or Fire-EMS personnel.

Today, the Roanoke TimesCast was shot at the new Roanoke Fire Station #1. Check out the TimesCast (http://blogs.roanoke.com/vlog/2007/05/timescast_51807.html).

FF Frank Leonard and Capt. Todd Stone make an appearance and if you listen closely when Todd is talking you can hear Kelcey Branch over the loud speaker.

If you have never watched the TimesCast, I suggest you take a look. There might be some others out there who enjoy theire jobs more than us. Great job guys.

Roanoke Fire-EMS has made some huge changes recently with more to come in the immediate future and even more on the horizon. Stations closing and being consolidated, companies taken out of service, apparatus changing designation, and now more promotions.

It has been several years since our last Battalion Chief promotion. Tomorrow, we will hear of several promotions up top. One Deputy Chief, and 3 BC’s spots will be filled ( I think that is the count, but you never know). The Assistant Chief of Operations will be redesignated Deputy Chief of Operations. A new Battalion Chief position will be added as well, although this might not happen until July 1. This new position is the EMS/Accreditation/ISO Battalion Chief from what I understand. The other two BC spots to be filled are Training and Northside C-shift. Depending on what happens filling the Deputy Chiefs spot, we might see another promotion.

Once all the top level spots are filled, there will be promotions in the field including Lieutenants, 1st Lieutenants, and Captains. The numbers are still up in the air for these.

The rookies will graduate recruit school on the 22nd and quickly be placed in the field. They will more than likely wait for their actual assignments until after promotions are finalized and the moves are made.

It seems as though there will be numerous moves this year due to the combination of #1 and #3, replacing E7 with M7, filling in for promotions, and making room for the rookies. Who will end up where?

Roanoke firefighters took on a new challenge today. Instead of fighting flames, crews tackled the move into the city’s new Fire-EMS headquarters. Read More
The new Headquarters Fire-EMS Station 1 is nearing completion. I haven’t had the chance to get inside of it since they began building. The other day, I ventured over to take some pictures of the station. They are below. The Station is set to open sometime the middle to end of April from what I understand.
This is the front of the station.
This is the rear of the station. You can see the 3 large bay doors in the center which will be for the Engine, Medic Unit or two, and ?Ladder? The two small bay doors on the right and one on the left will be for the Battalion Chief, RS-1, and I guess the service truck.
This is the Franklin Rd. Side of the building.
Here is the kitchen. It boasts large walk in pantry which will be used as the pantries and also will house a refrigerator. Each Shift will get a pantry.

This is a look down the hallway of the bunk room. Unlike most of the stations in Roanoke which feature an open bedroom full of beds, this station shares the design of pods in the bedroom with stations like 6 and 4.

This is a picture of the locker room. The lockers are located down one side (left) and in an open area at the other end. On the right is individual bathrooms with showers.
This is the watchdesk located just off of the bay as you can see through the window.

Chief Hoback Addresses the Crowd

Today marked a significant Anniversary for the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department, one hundred years as a completely career Fire Department. (Read More)

According to the Maurice Wiseman Project on Local 1132.org:

March 31, 1907 - The Roanoke City Fire Department became fully paid with uniformed men and the Volunteers disbanded, most of which were hired by the department.

Roanoke Fire-EMS 100th Anniversary

On March 17th Roanoke Firefighters will march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Noon. Following the Parade, the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department has planned a 100th Anniversary Party at the Historic Fire Station #1 Downtown. The event will be at 4 pm and everyone is welcome. I am not sure exactly of the festivities, although there will be some dignitaries speaking.

What are we celebrating?

On March 31, 1907:

The Roanoke City Fire Department became fully paid with uniformed men and the Volunteers disbanded, most of which were hired by the department (From the Maurice Wiseman Project Online).

Also 100 years ago on February 6, 1907:

Fire Station #1 is opened on this day. The Station was erected in 1906 at a cost $33,552.40. The bell and bell tower were moved from the old Station #1 to this Station #1. The building was designed by H.H. Huggins and built by John F. Barbour. From The Roanoke Leader Feb. 6, 1907 “…There are stalls for 9 horses. These stalls are made of iron and have running water beneath leading to the city sewer. The horses stand unhaltered, and are automatically released from their stalls by the first alarm… Roanoke now has one of the finest fire departments in the South and Roanokers, in consequence, have reason to be proud of the fact. And thus another step has been made onward to Greater Roanoke.”(From the Maurice Wiseman Project Online)

I will be there, and the book “Firefighting in Roanoke” will more than likely be available at the event.

I hope to see you at the Parade, Station #1, or at least downtown afterwards drinking some green beer.

City of Roanoke’s 125th Anniversary

“125th Anniversary Celebration Opening Ceremony” on Saturday, March 31 (between 12 and 4 p.m.), and it’s “Free and Open to the Public!”

The theme of the day and throughout the anniversary year is: “People. Pride. Promise.”

The Opening Ceremony is scheduled to include. . .

*
Distinguished Guests, including past Governors and other noted Roanoke-related politicos, noted authors actors and television dignitaries are scheduled to participate.
* The viewing of at least three major historical documentaries (including the premiere of Stars and Stripes, a work created especially for the 125th Anniversary Celebration.

*
A procession from the Hotel Roanoke (also established in 1882), with horse-drawn carriages, a color guard and bagpipers
* Vintage Automobiles

* A comprehensive exhibition of photographs and objects from Roanoke’s history from the History Museum of Western Virginia

* Musical performances, including those by the students of Roanoke City Public Schools, members of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and Manuel Melendez

* A procession of flags by the “Local Colors” organization from the 82 nations represented in our region

* Displays of period Silver & Displays of period jewelry

* An exhibit from the collection of Pete Ballard’s period Fashion Dolls

* An exhibit of three historic “Period Rooms”

* A host of exciting activities for children and families in the smaller Exhibition Hall, which will be created and operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department

* Refreshments for all

* And much more. . . (Read a more detailed listing)

Breaking News!!

Roanoke Fire-EMS has received a grant in the amount of $432,820 for Operations and Safety. The grant is from the “Fire Grants” which are the Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG). I can only hope that this is the grant money we were hoping to get for the diesel exhaust systems. I will do a little more research and update ASAP.

Shenandoah Life has provided the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department with $50,000 for exercise equipment for several stations in Roanoke City. Stations 7, 8, 10, and the new headquarters station have received equipment this week. You can read about the donation on Shenandoah Life’s website. Eventually all of the stations will receive state of the art exercise equipment. Station 4 and 9 have already gotten the equipment, funded by the City.
David Bocock is heading up the effort to bring the equipment into the stations. He said that the City is continually attempting to allocate funds to complete the purchase for all of the stations.

Thanks to Shenandoah Life for the equipment.

Acting chief named head of Roanoke Fire-EMS
David Hoback said he looks forward to taking charge of the department’s direction.

Reed Williams

David Hoback, who started working as a city paramedic 22 years ago and rose through the ranks, has been named chief of Roanoke Fire-EMS.

Hoback, 44, had been acting chief since July 2005, when former chief Jim Grigsby became acting assistant city manager for operations. Hoback’s promotion was effective Monday and announced Tuesday.

He said he looks forward to taking charge of the department’s direction and addressing its challenges, such as how to go about replacing aging facilities.

“I want to move the department forward,” Hoback said Tuesday. (Read More)

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department responded to a residential structure fire on January 31, 2007 at 2327 Staunton Ave.

The call was received through the 9-1-1 Center at approximately 5:24 a.m. The response of two Engines, one Ladder truck, one Medic Unit, one EMS Captain, the Emergency Management Coordinator and one Battalion Chief for a total of 14 personnel responded to the scene.
The fire was under control at 5:35 a.m.

Upon arrival, crews found a fire in the kitchen. Crews quickly entered the structure and extinguished the blaze.

There were three people inside of the home when the fire started.
They escaped without any injuries. There were no injuries to citizens or Fire-EMS personnel.

The fire started in the kitchen and was containedkitchen. The house sustained heavy smoke damage. The cause of the fire was unattended cooking materials. Damage estimates are approximately $15,000.

Three residents, two adults and one teenager, were displaced from the home. Emergency Management responded to the scene and assisted them.
They are now being helped by the Red Cross.

The Roanoke Fire-EMS Department responded to a residential structure fire on January 30, 2007 at 707 15th St.

The call was received through the 9-1-1 Center at approximately 11:17 p.m. The response of three Engines, one Ladder truck, two Medic Units, one EMS Captain, the Investigation Unit and one Battalion Chief for a total of 20 personnel responded to the scene. The fire was under control at 11:50 p.m.

Police on patrol spotted the fire and called it in. Upon arrival, crews found heavy smoke and flames coming from the structure. Crews quickly entered the structure and extinguished the blaze. Crews conducted a primary and secondary search which was ruled all clear.

No one was inside of the home when the fire started. There were no injuries to citizens or Fire-EMS personnel.

The fire started in the back living area of the first floor and was contained to the structure. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Damage estimates are approximately $20,000.

ROANOKE, VA – The City of Roanoke has promoted David Hoback as the Chief of Roanoke Fire-EMS effective yesterday, Jan. 29, 2007. Mr.
Hoback has been serving as Acting Chief since July 2005. He brings 22 years of experience with the city’s Fire-EMS Department to this position, including his services as a paramedic (1985-1989), EMS Field Supervisor (1989), Deputy Coordinator of Emergency Services (1989-1995), Battalion Chief (1995-2002), and Deputy Chief (2002-2007). Mr. Hoback was selected from a number of highly qualified candidates resulting from a national search.

He holds a B.A. in fire administration from Hampton University and was named an Executive Fire Officer with the National Fire Academy in 2002. He also earned the designation of Chief Executive Fire Officer in 2006. Prior to his employment with the city, he worked for Community Hospital as an Emergency Room Technician.

During his tenure as Acting Director for Roanoke Fire-EMS, Mr. Hoback has led in planning, directing and reviewing activities of personnel working in the areas of fire suppression, inspection, prevention, training, hazardous incidents, and emergency medical services.

Under his leadership, the department has expanded the Regional Recruit School to include Lynchburg City Fire-EMS, expanded regional cooperation with Roanoke County Mount Pleasant EMS responding into Garden City, and participated on the City’s Code Enforcement Team. As Acting Fire Chief, Mr. Hoback also participated in civic programs, fire prevention and safety campaigns, and recommended programs that provide for the efficient and effective use of personnel and equipment to reduce fire losses within the city.

“David has proven himself an effective leader for our Fire-EMS Department,” said City Manager Darlene Burcham. “I am confident his direction will be an asset to our city as we continue to modernize our fire and emergency medical facilities and services to be more responsive and accessible to citizens.”

Author Note: The above was taken from a Roanoke City Press Release.

Historic Note: Chief David Hoback is the first Chief named since the Roanoke Fire Department and Roanoke City EMS Department merged in 1995. Former Chief Grigsby was named Chief several months prior to the merge.