From the Roanoke Times:

Battalion Chief Bobbie Slayton remembered Fire-EMS Station No. 3 as one of the busiest of all the Roanoke stations.

“It was central in locations,” said Slayton, who had worked on and off at the station since 1965. “Some of the finest firefighters Roanoke had to offer have come through these doors, and the same ones have gone out.”

More than 150 firefighters gathered Sunday afternoon to share memories, laughs and celebrate the closing of the 98-year-old station on Sixth Street Southwest.

Roanoke Fire-EMS Lt. Rhett Fleitz said the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association just wanted to bring together former members of the station one last time.

“You never know what the city council is going to do; they could come and bulldoze it for all we know,” he said. “This has been a second home for so many guys in the department, and we just wanted them to come in and enjoy the tradition one last time.” Read More

I have to say that I really had a great time down at Fire Station 3 the other day. The food was great and the stories were better. Especially seeing Roadie Kelley slide down the pole, mind you he is around 70 years old. Special thanks to Chad Riddleberger, Nathan Foutz, and JJ Price for getting the event put together. Unfortunately, Chad was unable to attend due to an illness which put him in the hospital. I wish you a speedy recovery.

On another note:

The verdict is in. Ladder 1 will be moved to Fire Station 1. This isn’t a shock. The disturbing thing about the whole Station 1 mess is that they couldn’t come out and make a definite decision when they decided to continue with building the new station. Instead, firefighters have had to wait for a decision, one that finally came a mere week or two before the new station opens.

And then this:

Engine 7 will be taken out of service and replaced with a Medic truck. Station 7 will change from an Engine 7 (4 firefighters, minimum of 3) and Ladder 7 (4 firefighters, minimum of 3) per shift to Medic 7 (2 Firefighters, one being ALS Certified) and Quint 7 (6 firefighters, minimum of 4) per shift. Meanwhile, we still have 6 firefighters (3 Lieutenants and 3 ALS firefighters) stationed at Clearbrook Station 7 in Roanoke County.

I may never fully understand why the City still allows giving free manpower to the County when we have such huge budgetary issues in the City that we have to take an Engine out of Service. It appears there is some deep rooted City Council/Board of Supervisors back scratching going on.

I have hit on this before, and I will continue to do so in the future. Let us look at what is going on in the Northside. The rumblings on the street is that Roanoke County needs to justify more firefighters so they have had Medic 10 start running second in to Hollins area. Justification? What does Roanoke County need justification for? There department should be twice the size it is right now. What the hell are they waiting for? Maybe they are waiting for the senseless deaths of citizens in fires and medical emergencies while waiting for second or third due coverage. Roanoke County is beyond the capability of relying on firefighters responding at home. They need to have full coverage on all of their apparatus all the time. They need to run their own calls and only rely on mutual aid for what it was designed for. Currently, it seems as though Roanoke City has become the first in agency in a large part of Roanoke County. This should not be accepted by Roanoke City Citizens nor Roanoke City Council.

Engine 13 alone ran 4 calls in the County yesterday. County units were only seen on one of the calls. Don’t get me wrong, I love running calls. I have two years of running nothing to make up for. However, I can see the writing on the walls when City units are in the County covering for them and something BAD happens in there first due. I guess we will have to explain away….

Am I the only one who sees the Clearbrook deal as the worst business venture the City has done in a long time. We provide mutual aid into the County, hell most of it is automatic aid. Yet, instead of them providing the same to us, we have to staff their stations with our people. That is a blatant waste of resources.

On April 15th, the firefighters of Station 3 (Sixth and Rorer) are inviting friends, family, and citizens to the station for a farewell to the nearly 100 year old building. There will be good food, catered by Lt. Nathan Foutz and Lt. J.J. Price, and drinks (sodas I am sure). The event is planned from 1pm til around 5pm.

If you have never made it to an event attended by a bunch of the retired firefighters, this would be a great opportunity. You think you know the history and tradition, well I have news for you, you don’t know anything until you listen to them. Those guys will tell you a story with such passion that you will think you were there yourself.

This wasn’t the original station 3. There was a station 3 at 4th and East, near where the main post office is now. When the department went fully paid, they renumbered it station 2. In 1909, they built a new station at Sixth and Rorer and numbered it 3. It has been there ever since.

Once the new Headquarters Station opens, we will lose the number 3. Engine 3 and Medic 3 will become Engine 1 and Medic 1. Once the new station, replacing station 10, on Williamson Road opens near Hershberger, they will renumber it station 3. Therefore Engine 10 and Medic 10 will become Engine 3 and Medic 3. At least that is what I am told.

So come on out on April 15th and celebrate the old station.

The guys at Station 3 are planning a farewell party for the Fire Station which will be closing in about a month. On April 15th from 1pm til around 5pm, stop by and enjoy some food and beverage and reminisce about the nearly 100 year old station.

Fire Station 3 was opened on April 12, 1909, and will have just celebrated its 98th Anniversary when it is closed for good. The station was home to horses and horse drawn fire apparatus when it opened. The station has seen some changes over the years. Around 1950, the front facade which read No. 3 Engine House fell off of the top of the station onto the front ramp. The hose tower was removed from the roof line up, the hay loft is now used as additional bedroom, the room known as the kitchen now was added on in the 60′s I believe and was originally used as a radio communications room/alarm room.

I will have more information soon on the event.

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

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.

Hey Guys,

I am looking for information on our Hose Picks. I am currently seeking answers to these questions for a future post. If you do not know what I am talking about, I will show you in a future post.

  1. Do you know when hose picks first appeared in Roanoke?
  2. Do you know of other departments who use(d) them?
  3. Do you know of any firefighters who used to make them?
  4. Do you know what they were made from?
  5. What other information do you know about them?
Email me at with any information or leave a comment. Thanks.
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)


Several of the “Bluepatch” Firefighters have decided to organize the “The 1st Annual Bluepatch 1.5 mile Commemorative Dash” to relive the once popular task of running 1.5 miles to test the true fitness of firefighter candidates. Back in the day, firefighters had to run the 1.5 miles as well as do pull-ups, sit-ups, walk a balance beam, and other strenuous activities. The 1.5 miles had to be completed in 12 minutes.

The event location will be announced soon. If you have suggestions on a suitable track let Tim Jordan know at 13 B-shift. The event will be held on May 5th (Cinco da Mayo). Afterwards, for the ones left standing, there will be a social get-together at a local establishment (TBA).

If you are one of the firefighters who had to run the 1.5 miles and want to participate, let Tim Jordan know. Final eligibility will be determined by Captain Jay Ransome…Huh.

If you are a newer firefighter who didn’t have to run the 1.5 miles, you might be needed for medical standby.

The participants are not required to run the entire 1.5 miles and may finish the distance in whatever manner they deem necessary (no motorized vehicles allowed; i.e. hoverounds, powered wheelchairs, or mopeds).

Workers Comp. claims will not be honored for this event. However, if you are injured you will be allowed to go on light duty…maybe.

In today’s paper, the Roanoke Times offers “Looking Back” as it does every Sunday. Two things caught my eye:

n First Presbyterian Church had a Friendship Quilt that was made in 1892. It contained 20 squares commemorating volunteer fire departments, fraternal organizations and other insignia of Roanoke.


n “Thirteen firemen were injured, none seriously, when fire gutted the One-Hour Valet shop at 26 Church Ave. SW, early today.”

As for the quilt, I will be looking into this. I cannot believe that thing was right under our nose and we haven’t seen it. I will hope to have pics in the next week or two.

Roanoke’s Fire Station #1 Turns 100 Years old today

Roanoke’s Fire Station #1 opened on February 6, 1907 and today it reached the age of 100. The National Historic Landmark has remained open since it replaced the first Station #1 which was built in 1888. (Read More)
The Historic Downtown Fire Station #1 turns 100 years old today. The station opened on February 6, 1907. If you would like to view some of the history of the Roanoke Fire Department, now the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department, you look at the right hand sidebar and click on the category “history”, or you can go to Local 1132 online and view the Maurice Wiseman Project:
Fire Station #1 is believed to be one of the oldest operating firehouses in Virginia.
I will have more on this story later today.
Happy New Year Brothers!

We have now entered a defining year in the history of Firefighting in Roanoke. Did you know that March marks the 125th Anniversary of the first Fire Official in Roanoke – a Fire Marshal who’s job description was to inspect the chimney flues. This year also marks the 100th Anniversary of Fire Station #1 opening in February. The most defining Anniversary this year might be the 100th year of a completely paid department. Many events which have defined our fine department many years before we even thought of working here. Since these significant dates, there are not many others. We might consider the Second Platoon in 1936, or the first Black Firefighter in 1965, or the Third Platoon in 1972, or maybe even the first Female in 1995. But really 1995 only counts if you are to disregard the history of Roanoke City EMS, and then the date would be earlier. Not prior to 1985 though. To be sure of the date would only take a moment. These are the significant dates that have molded our department. Then there are other dates like when the department doubled in size in 1911 from 3 to 6 stations. Maybe you would consider when we got our first motorized apparatus also in 1911. Maybe when we bought the 5? Oren Grey Ghosts in 1950? Or in 1991 when we bought 5 Grummans both of which were large investments by the City.

These are defining moments in the history of the Department. Most firefighters have defining moments in their careers. Like their first fire, or their first day on the job, or possibly when they were promoted, the various assignments they will experience in their careers, or the big fires which occur every couple of years.

2007 has promises of being a big year for the Roanoke Fire-EMS. We will see another Chief named, the 12th in history since Chief McFall on March 1, 1903. Battalion Chief Billy Obenchain will be replaced in February as well. The new Fire Station at Elm and Franklin will open sometime around March and Fire Station #3 will close down having been open since April 12, 1909 equalling 98 years of fire service and having been home to horses in its early years.

For the new recruits, some of this stuff may seem like not such a big deal. For the veterans of the department, they have seen Chiefs come and go. For me, having been in the department for almost 8 years this will be the first time seeing a new Chief. As for the Battalion Chiefs go, when I came in 1999, Assistant Chief Tartaglia, Battalion Chief Beckner, Battalion Chief Roger Manuel, Battalion Chief Ferris, and Battalion Chief Altman (I apologize if I am wrong on any of these) hadn’t attained the level of BC. It has been interesting watching the ranks get filled.

We will see more recruits hired in February and then some more in July from what I understand. There may be more retirements before 2007 is over as well.

As for your resident Blog Dawg, as Deano Scarpini (Dean Russell the head of the Dublin Fire Brigade Mafia) calls me, is concerned I will continue to keep the site running. 2007 brings me back into the mix of things after being somewhat retired on the ARFF crew. January 5th will be like the first day of work for me. I cannot wait to run calls and see my brothers on the street protecting the Citizens of Roanoke.

Happy New Year
Stay Safe and God Bless

- Rhett Fleitz

Yesterday was the first book signing. I did not have a clue what to expect, but it went very well. Perry Franks, Jerry’s brother, set up the event at the Roanoke Antique Mall. We had the good fortune of the article in the paper mentioning the event. I showed up a little early and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Rocky Mount Fire Department had sent up their 1929 Seagrave. That truck is in excellent condition. I arrived around 1230 and there were already people waiting for a signed copy. Over the course of the next several hours I had the pleasure of talking to many relatives of retired firefighters. Several of which were related to firefighters from the teens. That was very interesting. Many of the names mentioned, I had heard of. I ended up searching the book many times to see if the relatives were in the book. The event was really fun. I met the grandson of Stephen C. Snead, the daughter of Bobby Geary, Hugh Waid – a firefighter who left to go to Fairfax around 1965 after working here 10 years, a relative of Alfred and Ott Britt, several retired firefighters as well.
I had a couple people ask about Maurice Wiseman. That was really neat. Unfortunately, I never met him, so I could only offer a little bit of information on him. I did get to meat Earl, one of his brothers. He is pictured in the picture above with his wife, both in blue jackets. They were very interested in the book and we talked about Maurice for a while.
The Chief of the Rocky Mount Fire Department brought their 1929 Seagrave Engine to show for the event. Thank you for helping out and showing off the truck.
Thanks for Perry Franks for taking the pictures


This artifact is one of the oldest in Roanoke relating to fire. This is a water bucket from the ages of bucket brigades. We have photos of this style bucket hanging on one of our hook and ladder trucks. Really, all that was on the truck was ground ladders, pompier ladders, water buckets, axes, and maybe lanterns. I would share the picture of the hook and ladder showing the water bucket hanging from it, but it is a centerpiece of the book. Which might I add, will be available in mere days.

Over the years some things have changed. Here are some of those things in no particular order.

In Roanoke the Firefighters used to…

Wear black helmets. Now Firefighters and Lieutenants wear yellow, 1st Lieutenants and Captains wear a dark red, and Battalion Chiefs and Chiefs wear white.

Use trumpets to give commands on the fire scene

Have all red fire trucks, now they are white over red
The trucks were lime green for several years as well
And don’t forget the grey ghosts

Fire Station 5 used to be lime green (So I hear, although I do not have a picture)

Ride tailboard, holding onto each other as they dressed, now considered unsafe.

The gold leaf on the fire trucks is reminent from an era where looks were almost important as performance. Gold leaf has been replaced by gold paint or gold striping. Some has vanished for ever.

The District Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs now, used to have their own drivers.

The 1st Lt. rank used to be a Captain’s position. In an effort to save money, the ladder captains became 1st Lt. which equated to a lesser pay grade.

The Roanoke Fire Department (now Roanoke Fire-EMS) has been fully paid since 1907, except for a short while after the Garden City area was annexed around 1970 (don’t quote me on the year).

While the engines have always been numbered by the station they were housed, the ladder trucks were originally labeled as 1-4 and with the exception of Ladder 1 were not numbered by the station where they were housed.

Prior to 1936 there was only one shift, up until 1972 there were only 2 shifts. In 1972, the third shift was added creating shifts A, B, and C which are still used today.

Roanoke Fire-EMS consists of stations 1-14 with the exception of 12 which was closed when the new station 4 was built across the street from the old one. Rumor has it that the new fire station proposed on Williamson Rd. to replace the Airport station will be numbered 12 due to the fact that the Airport station 10 will remain open with the ARFF company in it.

Engine 3 is the oldest unit in the department, originally being a chemical and hose company. Engine 1 would have beat it, but that unit was taken out of service when they opened station 14 and the positions were used to staff engine 14. Ladder 1 is the oldest ladder company.

The Battalion Chief’s bedroom at station 1, the halfway house at station 1, the raised concrete area in the bay at station 1, and the kitchen at station 3 have all served as communications for the Roanoke Fire Department. Currently communications are handled by dispatch at the Municipal building downtown.

The original station 4, 5, and 6 were the same and opened the same day. Station 5 is all that remains open, 6 is a police substation, and 4 was torn down.

The fire stations used to have stores in them where the firefighters would sell candy and other stuff.

Firefighters used to have numbered badges much like the police department.

Just thought I would share a few tidbits. Feel free to leave other factoids in the comments.

I began reading a second book by Stephanie Schorow “Boston on Fire”. I finished the first one “The Cocoanut Grove Fire” recently. Stephanie contacted me about a book that Charles Kenney is writing titled “Rescue Men” and it’s a memoir by Charles Kenney whose father was a Boston firefighter and grandfather was a Boston firefighter (who fought at the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire) and whose brother Tom was a firefighter and a FEMA team member sent to NYC on Sept. 12 to help with rescue/recovery efforts. The book also tells the stories of many other Boston “rescue men” and firefighters.

The point of this post is something that I thought of when I read the introduction and forward of “Boston on Fire”. A firefighter wrote that he thought some of the traditions that Boston Fire has were rumored and possibly just hear say until he read the book and believed them after Stephanie’s careful research of the topics.

Which brings me to my point. Roanoke Fire-EMS has traditions. We have things that we do everyday, some make sense, some don’t. We know why we do some of them, and others we have to ask older firefighters for reasons why we do them. These traditions give us a sense of ownership among our department. Ownership of our job. Others lose the meaning of these traditions in the translation when escalating the ladder of promotions, or moving from department to department, or being unwilling to learn about the department where they work. I believe some of these simple traditions keep the morale upbeat in the department. I also feel that these traditions keep the firefighters with a feeling of uniqueness in relation to other departments.

We have many traditions, most have been brought up in posts in the past. What are some of the traditions you know of? If you are from a different department, what traditions do you have?

Yesterday, as I was working on the pictures for the book I noticed something. Not just anything. This was a history changer. This one will be a keynote of the book. One of the pictures I got copied from the History Museum thanks to Kent Chrisman is more than I ever thought. It is a picture of one of the volunteer fire companies. Which one you ask? Well it is narrowed down to the Friendship #3 or Junior #2 companies. The dress looks like that of the Friendships. However the building behind the firefighters looks to be Rorrer Hall, where the Juniors were once housed.

But that isn’t the interesting thing, that is a formality. The best part about it is that the men are all lined up holding a banner, which is not legible, with a hose cart behind them. So I say to myself “Self – why are they holding swords?” and then I answered “You idiot, those aren’t swords, those are the ropes to pull the hose cart”. So there you have it, possibly the oldest picture of Roanoke Firefighters. But you cannot see it yet. You have to wait for the book. That is the deal.

March 2007 – Firefighting in Roanoke.

I will post the image of the cover soon, once I have turned in the rough draft.

This tank below hangs on the wall down at fire station #1. Actually there are two of the tanks on the walls. They hang right next to Ladder #1. Ladder #1 sits right where the horse stalls used to be. So what does all this stuff have in common? Well the first motorized apparatus that Roanoke City bought were 1911 model Seagrave engines. These apparatus were housed at #4, #5, and #6 fire stations while #1 and #2 continued to use horses for several more years. These horses at station #1 were kept in stalls, and the “off-duty” horses were in a nearby pasture. Unfortunately there aren’t any known photographs of the inside of station #1 showing the horse stalls. The tanks that hang on the wall of station #1 were actually the tanks off of the 1911 model Seagrave’s. There being two tanks on the wall, we can assume that at least two of the three were scrapped.

The question is whether or not the tanks are the water/chemical tanks or the fuel tanks. Later on in the 1920′s the fuel tanks were located right behind the seat. If you look at the picture below you will see the tank, but there is space behind the seat where a fuel tank might be located behind the side panel. It appears as though the tank is a water tank because the valves and gauge that seem to be attached to it.

Picture courtesy of the History Museum of Western Virginia.
Did you know that firefighters badges used to be numbered? That is right, Chief W.M. Mullins sent a bulletin to all the Captains on April 4th, 1930 explaining the new program of numbering all the firefighters badges.

The bulletin read:

Roanoke, Va.
April 4th. 1930

Bulletin to Captains:

We are to-day providing each member of the Department with a badge, numbers to begin with 15, The number has nothing to do with seniority or length of service but is a means of recognition at fires and other places.

Captains and Engineers whose badges are not numbered, when entering a place where the badge must be shown will state that he is a Fire Dept. Captain or Engineer of the Company to which he belongs.

Members must not loan or borrow badges, and in the event a badge is lost, it must be reported to this office immediately, violators of this ruling will be subject to heavy punishment, since the City has furnished these badges for the best interest of the Department, the members should show their appreciation by properly using them.

Yours truly,
W.M. Mullins (signed)
Chief Fire Department.

I am not sure of the date in which we stopped numbering our badges. Currently everyone’s badges look the same.

Can someone please help me identify the fireman and the horse in this picture? Ok, that might be a tall order, and I do not expect any of you to know the answer.

I am full swing into the book now. The proposal will be going off in the next week. Today in between phone calls I was able to work on the book a little bit. Apparently when I am busy everyone else knows about it and decides to call.

This is the last call for any pictures that might exist that you think should be submitted for possible publication in the book. In case you do not know what I am talking about, I am working on a book that chronicles the history of Fire Service in the City of Roanoke through pictures. You can see an example of what it will look like here. Be sure to contact me if you have some pictures. I will have them scanned and returned to you ASAP.