Volunteer organizations often arise when crucial services are not readily available. Such was the case in 1951, on a cold October night in a farming community near Richmond, Va. While driving on Manakin Road in Goochland County, Mr. Gilbert Moore noticed flames shooting out of the windows of Dover Baptist Church. Dialing 911 on a cell phone wasn’t an option, so Moore drove to the nearby community of Manakin to enlist help from neighbors. In the meantime, Mr. Ned Willis brought equipment from his collection of antique fire apparatus located on Pembroke Farm. All efforts failed.
Volunteers Meet A Need
Although the City of Richmond Fire Department dispatched a truck, the church was a complete loss by the time it arrived. Wasting no time, 20 men from Manakin began organizing a fire department in November 1951. In February 1952, the “Dover-Pembroke Fire Department Volunteer Association” became official. The event that had so affected Mr. Moore led him to become a member of the first fire training class. Mr. Willis became “Chief Willis”, and donated property to be used as training grounds along with the donation of the first piece of the department’s equipment – a 1920 model American LaFrance. In 1953, Mr. J.W. Harmon donated an acre of land to the fire department. Members of the department, and community members as well, built the firehouse, which consisted of two bays and a tower used for air-drying hose.
Firemen’s wives were also called to participate. They became dispatchers using a telephone emergency line. Each dispatcher was responsible for informing five firemen of the location and type of fire that was burning. Auxiliaries were soon formed in several neighboring communities. Throughout the next 40 years, and continuing today, fundraisers were commonplace to help pay for new equipment and firehouse improvements; pancake suppers, bingo, spaghetti dinners, selling fruitcakes and Brunswick stew helped raise funds for the cause. Once a kitchen was installed, donated items helped complete the facilities.
A Lasting Legacy
In 1967, Mr. C.S. Luck donated a van which was converted into the first ambulance at Company 1. In 1990, additional land was donated to the department by Mr. J.C. Wheat, followed in 1998 with a donation of property from Mr. Fleetwood Garner. That same year, a $600,000 contract for the current building was awarded to McGuire-Hearn, Inc. and the ribbon was cut on June 27, 1999 at an open house for the present day Goochland County Fire-Rescue.
As recounted by volunteer Edith Richmond in 2011, “it has gone from one truck and a few volunteers to many companies; paid personnel, rescue units and high tech equipment. The dedication to the cause, however, has remained the same, everyday men and women volunteering time and putting their lives on the line to help their fellow citizens.” Still staffed almost exclusively of volunteers, the diverse members of Goochland Fire-Rescue include retirees, nurses, teachers, construction workers and business people, all with the single mission of helping neighbors.
Goochland Pays Tribute to Fallen Comrades
The Department itself remembers its fallen comrades from the attacks of 9/11. In 2012, a piece of steel from the North Tower was donated to Manakin County 1 by the Freedom Flag Foundation, with hopes it would become a home for one of the few 9/11 monuments in the Metro Richmond Area. The piece of steel from the 92nd floor is cut into two pieces and placed side by side to represent the Twin Towers. Erected on blue stone and brick, the steel is surrounded by 5 benches in the shape of a pentagon. A grassy hill behind the memorial has a stone that reads “93” on it, representing Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa. The memorial opened to the public on September 11, 2013 and is open 24/7 365 days a year. It stands at the Manakin station for all to witness and touch a lasting reminder of the sacrifices given on that day.
Donating for a Cause
Hopefully, you’ve noted a common theme while reading about the origins of the Goochland Fire Department – the number of times the word “donated” appears. Upon learning that the Department is celebrating its 65th anniversary, C. Forbes, Inc. is pleased to continue the act of donating, not only because our corporate office is located in Goochland County, but because we take pride in supporting the efforts of first responders. We are honored to donate custom, commemorative challenge coins, presented to Chief William MacKay, that recognize the rich history of this vital service to our community.
The 65th Anniversary custom coin features two images: the Goochland County seal, with its 1727 founding date; and the 1951 Dover Pembroke Fire Department, and 1920 model fire truck.
Please contact us for more information about our products and customization process. Our mission is to design, produce and present quality, custom items that tell your story. We welcome the opportunity to combine your goals with our expertise to properly commemorate your unique anniversary, event or organization.