Yesterday, an auction ended for a postcard of Historic Fire Station 1. I had bid on it, was watching it, then forgot about it. I did not win the auction. Below are pictures of the postcard which is used and dated 1917.



The time has come to finish what was started with Firefighting in Roanoke. I plan on writing the second book on the history of Firefighting in Roanoke in the future. This book will be very similar to the previous one showcasing the Roanoke Fire Department, Roanoke Emergency Medical Services, and the Roanoke Fire EMS Department which was created from the two. I also plan on delving a little bit deeper into the Roanoke Life Saving Crew, the Williamson Road Life Saving Crew, and the Hunton Life Saving Crew and First Aid Crew.

The new book, which has yet to be named, will focus on Firefighting and EMS in Roanoke since 1972 when the 3rd platoon was added to the Fire Department. That period in time is where “Firefighting in Roanoke” trailed off.

I have already spoken with a few guys about getting some photos and history from. The book will be the same format: 128 pages with anywhere from 124-250 photos. I will rely on photos and information from Roanoke’s Firefighters and EMS providers who worked here during this era and who are still here.

I am looking for photos of:

  • Big Fires
  • MVA’s
  • Rescue
  • Fire Apparatus
  • EMS Apparatus
  • Other incidents
  • Training
  • Historic Events
  • Promotions
  • Retirements
  • etc.

The photos need to be very good quality. I have a great track record of getting the photos scanned and returned quickly. I do not need to hold on to the photo during the creation of the book. Turnaround time should be a couple of days to no more than a week.

Basically, if you want a shot of having your photos, your crews, yourself, your fires in the book then I need to have stuff submitted. Feel free to contact me by phone, pager, or email to get the photos and information to me.

I need to get my hands on the photos in order to ensure that I get a high quality scan. If you do not want to give up your photos and would rather scan them yourselves just let me know and I will give you the details on the image I need.

I really wanted to write the complete written history of the department, but in talking about it it seems as though most of my brother and sister firefighters would rather see the last 40 or so years done first. I aim to please, so I decided to do this book first.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a question. I have 128 pages to work with. So basically I have about 30 pages to allot for each decade: 1970′s, 1980′s, 1990′s, and 2000 to present. If all goes well I should be able to have this book created in about a year. However, that is only an estimate. If I get a lot of photos submitted and get rolling on this book it could be sooner than later. It took me about 9 months to write the first one, but only about 20% of those photos were submitted. The other 80% were on hand from the collection of Maurice Wiseman. This time it will probably be the opposite. I will probably have about 20% on hand already and hope to have 80% or so submitted.

Soon I will begin the daunting task of going to the History Museum, Library, and VT Imagebase to collect images.

I am creating this book for my brothers and sisters. I really appreciate any and all submissions of history, ideas, and photos for the book.

I cannot guarantee that your photos will be used and I will not know which photos will be used until the final months of the project. I will do my best to showcase our history as best I can.

To get a hold of me, use the contact form (button at the top of the blog), email, or call me.

-Rhett Fleitz

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.


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

Station 9′s Coin and a message from Goodo. If you have a photo of #1′s coin send it in. Correct me if I am wrong, but these are considered Challenge coins aren’t they.

Here is the picture of our Station 9 coin. Its the building when it opened with the old doors and no office addition. Since they are shutting it down soon we thought we should get on it now. Hopefully the other stations will see this and we can get everyone doing it. The one side is already on 1 and 9′s coins. Bradbury and I hoped everyone would use the same City logo side and put there station design on the back. I would love to get 1 from every station.

Our coins are solid brass, and the cost is quickly recovered. They can call me or Bradbury and we can get them more information, or hook them up with our contact.

Thanks for putting them out there, maybe we can have a little tradition of our own started.

-Good O

Rodney Jordan, Duane Dixon, Brent Berry, and I recently returned from the IAFF Convention in Las Vegas. In case you were wondering, the Convention is a “Business Meeting” of sorts. We vote on resolutions which set forth the business for the next two years as well as beyond. If you would like to view video and resolutions, check out the IAFF website.

Rodney and I were pleasantly surprised to see that one of Local 1132′s historic images was used as the banner for the convention. As you can see in the picture, Steamer #2 sitting in front of Station 9 was picked as the main centerpiece for the convention and could be seen all over the Exhibit hall. This image was one of many sent in to the IAFF for the History Project. The IAFF also used several images for the IAFF History Project which was unveiled a couple of years ago.

I bet you that right now, Ladder 13 is the busiest truck in the City. Maybe not for calls run in its first due, but all together.

Most recently, it was on the Ferdinand Fire. First in as a matter of fact. So what if Ladder 7′s crew was on it.

It was also on the Summer Tree Apartment fire. A little out of the first due of Station 13. 7′s crew was on it that day too.

It is kinda like that joke. You know the one with the punchline…Everyone gets a turn on her. No wonder when we get Ladder 13 back to Station 13 she is broke.

On the other hand. Ladder 7 ran 31 calls the other day during the wind storm. That is a couple more than normal. I am not sure, but they might have been riding Ladder 13 actually.

…Anyways, I have a good story for you guys soon. It is a historic story. One that takes the blog back to its grassroots. That is right, one that should shake your core. One that many may not know about. So stay tuned for that soon.

31 calls, now that sounds like fun….ONCE.

Stay Safe.

I got a call at the Union Hall on Wednesday from the Interactive Design Group. They are purchasing Fire Station #3 to be used as their offices. Unless something comes up, the deal will go through.

Apparently, the woman I spoke to is looking for the fire pole for the station. I told her that it is now the legs to the table at #1. So she was interested in finding another one from Roanoke. I told her that I would look around, but I doubt she would have any luck.

The plan is to restore the station and keep the open floor plan. They also plan on putting overhead doors in place of the current ones which replicate the original doors. That will be neat.

It is good to see that it won’t be torn down.

Hey all, I totally dropped the ball on this story below. I apologize to the guys involved that I left it off the site for so long. The truth is that I get around 50 emails a day (after the spam filter). So if I forget to go back and mark it as unread it just falls to the bottom. I usually catch this sort of thing and post it, but this one fell through the cracks. I will post the story unadulterated. The story was submitted by Captain Willie Wines Jr.

October 6, 2007


With so many negative things happening around the Department this week, I thought I’d share a more positive story with you. We had a visitor at station #9 last week by Roy Lane. Roy belongs to the Kazim Temple’s Fire Brigade here in Roanoke. He told us a story of the Lexington, Va. Fire Department donating an Engine to the Temple. He said the guys of the Brigade worked endlessly to refurbish the Engine and had it in great condition. He was really excited to tell of how Captain Brown’s men ( Roanoke Fire / EMS Station #1-C ) had donated some 2 ½ hose and even went as far to load it into the bed for them. He continued to detail their work and said all they really lacked was to find some axes for the holders already mounted on the Engine. Roy and I know each other pretty well, so he knows I have a pretty large collection of Fire equipment etc. and thought I may have an axe or know where to get one. He also knows me well enough to know that my dad was once a volunteer Firefighter for Lexington (before being hired here in 1971) and knew I may have an interest in participating. Well, in particular, he was looking for a flat head axe, feeling it would be safer for the kids that often climb on and play around their equipment. Well, as my luck runs, of all the axes in my collection, none are flat head. So, I contacted Vince Stover at Fire Administration to see if he could help. Vince was happy to help and even offered to donate a new axe from our supply closet. That’s the good news, the bad? We only have fiberglass-handled axes and we just didn’t think that would be a good fit for antique apparatus. So, more calls were made. We contacted Chief Adkins at RTC to see if he had any wooden handle flat heads and as unbelievable as it is, he didn’t. Not to be stonewalled, we kept searching and were finally able to locate 2 axes on Reserve Engines (904 @ #10, and 901 @ #14). The Officers at both stations had the axes sent to # 9 where my guys worked most of the day refinishing and painting them. Lt. Richard Alley led the work and despite my opinion being biased, they turned out GREAT. Well, the timing was perfect because the Brigade was heading to Lexington this morning in that Engine to lead in a Parade. They left a few minutes early to stop by our station and thank the guys for their work and allow us to present them with the refurbished axes. The ironic thing here is that they wanted to thank us, yet they are the ones deserving the thanks for all they do! My hat is off to them and all who helped in this project (Roanoke Fire / EMS Dept., Vince Stover, Chief Teddy Adkins, Captain R.T. Flora, Lt. Stacy Booth, and the men from stations #1, and #9 C-shift).

In closing, I would encourage everyone to stop by the Shriner’s building (located on Rorer Ave behind the old # 3) to look at the Antique Fire apparatus they have. They have a really neat Ladder Truck, complete with wooden ladders that even have American LaFrance carved into them. Better yet, sign on to help these guys out in a really deserving cause.

W.W. Wines Jr.
Captain, # 9-C

Once again, the firefighters at Station 1 have outdone themselves. They have created a tv stand out of an old fire alarm pull box pedestal. The stand was repainted and refurbished to hold the tv in the kitchen of the new Fire Station 1.

Roanoke had fire alarm boxes in service from the late 1800′s until the year 2000 (give or take a year). When I came to the department in 1999, we still had several throughout the City. The main reason why the boxes were taken out of service was because of all of the false alarms and the advent of the 911 system. Today, with the use of the 911 system and the fact that most people have cell phones, most emergencies are taken care of without the need for pull boxes. One interesting note is that Cities like Boston still use the systems and still believe in their effectiveness without many false alarms to hamper the firefighters.

Great job on the tv stand. Thanks to Lt. Baron Gibson for the pictures.

I recently got a hold of these pictures of a fire which occurred in 1972. Captain Clonnie Yearout got them to me and I do not know who took them, so I cannot give any credit. Clonnie was not on the fire, being that he was hired in 1973. That leaves only one other guy in the department who was here at the time. Maybe Chief Slayton knows a little more about the fire. I do know the building is the Gainsboro Apartments.

I thought the series of pictures was neat and I decided to share them with you all. Some of the things I noted were the use of the ladder with tormentor poles. The fact that every floor was laddered, although one of the ladders moved between the first and second floors. I imagine that there were several rescues made at this fire. It also “seems as though” the fire was pushed through the building from side 2 to side 4 moving up floors as it went until it vented itself out the roof. Obviously, it would have been ideal to attack the fire from the inside and push the fire out of side 2. But we may never know what issues the firefighters had to deal with when they showed up, or the strategy and tactics of command.

I will have to look up the fire to see if anyone was injured or killed in this fire.

When I was finishing the book (Firefighting in Roanoke) I double checked everything. When I got to the chapter on the Diamond Jubilee I realized an error. I had written that we had a picture of every firefighter at every station in Roanoke on that Day. I was wrong and I knew it. Unfortunately, through all the work that Maurice Wiseman and I did and all of the pictures available out there, the picture of #6 for that day was never found. We have several originals and many copies for every picture, except for #6. So I had to change the wording of the chapter and write that it was all of the firefighters and fire stations except station 6.
The missing picture was out of my mind. I figured that the picture was never taken. However, that all changed the other day when I got a call from a friend. Greg Doss lives just South of Nashville, TN. Greg is a native of Roanoke and used to be a firefighter in Vinton. His father, Daniel “Peanuts” Doss was a firefighter for Roanoke City. Peanut’s sister, Grace Myers, is the widow of Joseph Earl Myers. Joe was firefighter for Roanoke City as well. Peanut’s nephews are Mike and Tommy Hogan, both firefighters for Roanoke City. Jerry Hogan is Mike and Tommy’s cousin.

I met up with Greg the other day at Grace Myers’ house. Joe, her husband, was a firefighter for Roanoke for about 6 years when he suddenly went blind. The firefighters kept Joe on the books for a year until they had to let him go. Grace still has his helmet and turnout coat. The coat is more of a thick raincoat with buckles much like turnout coats. The material is almost like leather, and might have been leather. Grace also had two pictures out that were related to the fire department. One was of Fire Station 1 and the other was this missing picture of #6.

I have not had time to identify all of the firefighters in the picture but I know of several so far. Left to right they stood in line of rank, both shifts at once. Therefore the first two are Captains, then two lieutenants, then four firefighters. Again this is 1957. On the right is Captain Cox, who later died in the Line of Duty, then we think it is Captain McFarland, one of the lt.’s is Honey Vest and all the way on the right is Firefighter Joseph “Earl” Myers.

Thanks to the Myers family for allowing us to get a copy of the photo. Thanks to Greg Doss and his Father Peanuts as well. This means a lot to us and is the missing piece of the puzzle. We now have every firefighter and fire station pictured in 1957.

As for Daniel “Peanuts” Doss, he is a character. Some of the stories he told me were hilarious. Obviously a prankster, he would have fit right in nowadays as well. Although some of the stuff he got away with back in the day we would certainly be fired for now.

Peanuts worked for Roanoke City from 1958 – 1966 and decided to move on; Tommy Hogan worked here for years, being hired in 1963, and made Captain; Mike Hogan died of Leukemia after working here for a little over a year 1972 – 1973; Jerry Hogan was hired in 1964 and made Captain, you can still see him around at Union Meetings etc.; Joseph “Earl” Myers worked here from 1956 – 1962 and left because he lost his sight.

Fire Engine 7 has been taken out of service after 84 years of service to Roanoke’s Southwest neighborhoods. The engine was placed into service on December 13, 1922 when Fire Station 7 was opened at 1742 Memorial Avenue. A ladder truck was added in 1950 after Roanoke’s Firefighters added on an additional bay with a large bunk room above. The first Engine 7 was a 1920′s model Seagrave.
Engine 7 has been replaced with an ambulance (Medic 7). The other unit which will remain in service at Station 7 will be a Quint (Ladder 7). A Quint is a multitasking truck. Ladder 7 boasts a 75′ Aerial Ladder, Ground ladders, 300 gallons of water, hose, and a pump. In the grand scheme of Quints, ours is about as underdesigned as they can get. Ladder 13 is an identical truck and is only run as a ladder.

From the ground up, Ladder 7 has shortcomings. Here are a few of the major ones.

The ideal reach of an Aerial Ladder is at least 95′; Ladder 7 is 75′.
The ideal amount of water on an engine is at least 500 gallons; Ladder 7 holds 300 gallons.
The weight of the truck is obviously too much for the single axle design in the rear end.

From what I understand, Quint 7 will be run as an engine in its first/second due and as a ladder truck outside of that area.

The reason why I bring all this stuff up is because of what is going on in Roanoke.

Roanoke has the most aggressive Fire Department in the State! If you don’t believe me look around the State. We have had fairly safe history (knock on wood); and are very blessed by having quick response times, dedicated personnel, and hard workers.

So my question is if it isn’t broke then why fix it?

Several years ago, Engine 12 was taken out of service and replaced by Medic 4; the additional two positions were sent to Roanoke County at Clearbrook Station 7.

Now we lose Engine 7 to put another Medic truck in service.

Before you guys start screaming, I will admit that we need more ambulances. It seems like the City gets dumped daily and we are calling on other agencies to fill in and run calls for us. At what cost?

Think of it this way, if we are running more EMS calls then we are billing for more EMS calls and thus making more revenue for those EMS calls. Naturally, you would think that the additional revenue would be used to fund these additional medic trucks. Until I am proven otherwise, it is my understanding that the revenue from EMS billing is placed in the general fund of the City and not earmarked for Fire-EMS uses.

The additional Medic Trucks must come at a cost. That cost has become Engine/Ladder Companies. Our fleet of Medic trucks increases, our fleet of Fire Apparatus decreases. It seems as though we are on a crash course for potential disaster. Look around, most of the large incidents we have had in the past we have been able to handle with limited loss of life and property. But will the cost be greater in the future?

This video was produced by Jim Hammerstrom and Blue Ridge Public Television (Blue Ridge PBS) for the show Blue Ridge Excursions. The video is an interview with Lt. Rhett Fleitz of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department talking about the history of the department and the book “Firefighting in Roanoke”, which was authored by Fleitz. The book was a tribute to Maurice Wiseman who dedicated many years to preserving the history of the department. The video has been reproduced with permission from Blue Ridge PBS.

For those of you on Roanoke City computers, the video will not be accessible due to site limitations. The video is hosted on YouTube, which you aren’t allowed to look at.

You guys have got to check this out.


This item is on ebay – you can view it here. The current price is $756. The reserve has not been met yet. I can tell you that this thing appears to be authentic and Knepp, whose name is inscribed in it, was the Chief of the Volunteers prior to McFall. McFall was the first Chief of the paid department.

With the highly anticipated decision to close down Roanoke’s Historic Fire Station 1 on Church Avenue behind us, we are left to ponder what will happen to the 100 year old structure. Rumors have been rampant for a long time about the fate of the building, beginning back in 1972 when the first attempts to close it began. There have been many rumors to have a fire and/or EMS museum in the building. The last I heard, the To the Rescue Museum (once housed in Tanglewood Mall) was acquired and will reopen in NOVA or Virginia Beach. With the threat of Roanoke’s flagship firehouse being taken over by an EMS museum out of the way, I am left to wonder what will happen to it?

The Roanoke Police Department will use part of the bay for their mounted patrol. Roanoke Fire-EMS has stated that they will staff the building with light-duty (injured) or retired personnel who will give tours to visitors. I am just wondering if there will be a long line to see an empty station that contrary to popular belief has been closed down. If we are to consider it still open, then it is an open building not an open firehouse. After all, a firehouse houses firefighters.

So what will come of the building that City Council says they will not get rid of?

I for one would love to see a Fire Museum located inside at this point. However, museum’s aren’t developed overnight. If Council had made the decision to close it back in 2005, we could be very close to opening one up now.

Wouldn’t the building be perfect for housing the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association, Roanoke’s chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (Local 1132). The RFFA along with a Museum would be a perfect match for the empty building. After all, currently the RFFA owns the largest collection of Roanoke Fire artifacts. The RFFA’s collection along with private collections in the area and local museum holdings would make a decent start to a museum.

We all know that the building will not last long if it is not inhabited. What are your thoughts?

Hub’s hubbub: Fire station’s closing a surprise to many

By Amanda Codispoti

Firefighters ran their first calls from the new Roanoke Fire-EMS Headquarters on Wednesday, the same day that at least two city council members and many other Roanokers learned that Station No. 1 had quietly closed.

The fate of the 100-year-old station has been debated for the past year and a half.

The city’s original plan was to consolidate Station No. 1 and Station No. 3 into the new $6.2 million facility.

But then, in 2005, after much clamor from the city’s Firefighters Union and others, the city council voted to keep Station No. 1 open.

So the station’s closing came as a surprise to council members Brian Wishneff and Sherman Lea, who said they hadn’t heard of the plans to shut down the historic station as an active firehouse.
Read More

I remember vividly when City Council voted to keep the Station open. Since then, the firefighters have realized the fate of the historic Station, it will be closed. We just had to wait for the decision which we figured would come from City Council. I have said all along that firefighters can take no for an answer. If City Council had decided then to close station 1 when the new station opened life would have went on. That is easier to swallow than dragging your feet and deciding, behind closed doors weeks before the new station was set to open, to close the older station 1. But wait…did they decide to close the station?

I received a phone call just before this article was to break about Councilman Wishneff and Councilman Lea not knowing that station 1 would be closed. I could not believe that the two Council members didn’t have a clue. But I was told that Council decided to close it. In case you are just joining us, Brian Wishneff and Shermann Lea are both Roanoke City Council members. Therefore, they would have to have known that the station would close. Maybe they are not owning up to it. That doesn’t sound right either.

It seems as though something as easy as coming out and voting to close it, has turned out to be a debacle. In the beginning, there were many firefighters opposed to the plan. Over the last year and a half, I have seen most of them turncoat. That is their prerogative, just don’t act as if you never were in agreement with keeping it open. I understand that in the face of defeat it is easier to conform to the future. That is why I have embraced the new station. It was a lost cause fighting for the historic station after council decided to continue building the new headquarters station. Downtown businesses, Council Members, and Firefighters gave it a decent fight and were not victorious. That should have been the end of it. Meanwhile, those of us opposed to it just sat back and waited for the decision…and waited…and waited. Like they were worried of the backlash, which I did not foresee.

However, now it seems someone might have been caught in a a lie.
Can a department head overturn a City Council decision?
Can the City Manager overturn City Council?
Can City Council make a decision without all of them know about it?
Is it safe for Council Members to claim they knew nothing about the decision?

I hear a lot of things from all types of people. It was my understanding that City Council agreed to close the historic station 1 and station 3 to consolidate into the new station. At the same time they agreed to take Engine 7 out of service and replace it with medic 7. Now I am left asking the question of who is in charge around here?

The funny thing is that if they had decided to close it in the beginning, they could have had a big open house for the new station, had a small gathering to close the old station, and had a plan for the old station. That way the article in the paper today would have been all about the “NEW HEADQUARTERS FIRE STATION #1″ and not about the controversy over closing the old one. Instead, we are left with a small flag raising ceremony that nobody knew about. That is a shame.

Update: From what I understand, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new station on June 2nd. That is all I know about it for now. More later.

Roanoke Opens the New Headquarters
Roanoke Firefighters held a flag raising ceremony for the opening of Fire Station 1. The station, situated at the corner of Elm Avenue and Franklin Road, cost $6.2 million and is 29,000 square foot. Read more and view more pictures.

This is the table that Kelcey Branch and the rest of the guys at 3 A built for the new station. I must admit that it is a great looking table.

I just got finished watching the interview I did for PBS on Blue Ridge Excursions. Many thanks to Jim Hammerstrom for doing an excellent job editing the story. I will do my best to get a hold of the video to get copies out to whoever wants one.

And yes I know that #5 is at 12th and Loudoun Ave. not 12th and Moorman. My bad.

I hope you guys liked it who were able to watch it.

Tonight on PBS Blue Ridge Excursions, the video on the history of the Roanoke Fire Department will air at 730 pm.

The website for PBS is here

Let me know what you think after you watch it. I will be watching it for the first time as well.

In haste of what some would call my shameless self-promotion, I forgot all about the interview I did airing on PBS tonight. I was interviewed for Blue Ridge Excursions for PBS a couple of months ago and it is airing this week. In case you missed it along with me you will have the opprotunity to watch it again on Sunday April 29th at 730 pm. By the way, the interview isn’t about me at all, it is about the history of the Roanoke Fire Department and was filmed in the bay of Fire Station #1. The really cool thing about it is that the RFFA has a tape of an interview that RVTV did with Maurice Wiseman in the 1990′s.