Community Roots - City
History of the Virginia Beach Fire Department
Contributed by Martin Grube
Fire station at 20th Street and Arctic Ave. - Circa 1950 (from the collection of Martin Grube)
On March 19, 1906, the town of Virginia Beach held a meeting at the Princess Anne Hotel on 15th Street. It is here the Committee for Fire and Police was created. A volunteer fire department was formed however, very little fire equipment was secured. Over the next two decades, the fire department struggled but in May of 1925, the first motorized fire truck was ordered. A fire station was built at 24th Street and Pacific Avenue and occupied in September that same year.
The first paid fire chief hired was Harry R. Holland in October 1928 along with two additional men. Their duties were a combination of police and fire. The police position took precedence but if a fire broke out, the policemen would respond the fire truck. In 1947, it was time to split the duties and hire more men as firemen. In September 1947, E.B. Bayne became the first paid fire chief of Virginia Beach. Along with large group of volunteer firemen and 15 paid firemen, they kept the citizens safe in Virginia Beach and the neighboring Princess Anne County.
In 1971, the Fire Department was united with the oceanfront fire station and the volunteer fire departments throughout the former Princess Anne County. More paid firefighters were hired and assigned to the individual volunteer stations. In 1974, Chief Bayne retired and Harry E. Diezel became fire chief. Chief Diezel spent the next twenty years dealing with a growing department. New stations, new equipment and hiring many employees changed the fire department significantly.
In August of 1998, Greg Cade became fire chief. Over the years, the Virginia Beach Fire Department has grown with the city’s needs and today, there are eighteen fire stations with over 450 members on the roles. The equipment fleet has been modernized and boasts new American LaFrance pumpers, new aerial ladder trucks and a fire boat protecting the Great Neck area marinas. Additionally, a life safety education division that teaches fire safety to children and seniors in nursing homes.
In March 2006, the Virginia Beach Fire Department will celebrate their 100th anniversary. A full day of activities is scheduled for April 2006. For more information go to: www.vbfd.com.
For more information or questions regarding the history of the Virginia Beach Fire Department, please email the fire department historian Martin Grube at firstname.lastname@example.org
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