Leaders in Loudoun County’s volunteer fire community celebrated a mix of the old and the new Sunday.
Men and women from the county’s longest-running fire company, Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company, took part in a century-old tradition to christen a shiny, new fire engine. With Mayor Kelly Burk manning the hose, the firetruck was doused with water and hand-dried by members of the volunteer fire company.
Cpt. James Fazekas said the wet-down ceremony is a tradition that dates back to the days when fire engines were pulled by horses. Soaking the fire engine was needed to clean off the horse manure, he said. “That’s the theory of how it got started,” he added.
At the start of the ceremony, Deputy Chief Matthew Myers unveiled that engine #601 was dedicated to James B. “JB” Anderson II, an announcement that caught Anderson, the company’s former fire chief, off guard.
Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company Chief Jim Cook walked Anderson around the engine to show him that his name had been painted on the side of the vehicle, in gold lettering in the middle of a green clover.
“I’m proud to be a part of this group since ’66,” Anderson said. He thanked his wife and the men and women he’d worked with at the company over the years.
Members of the fire company and their families gathered at Fire Station 20 on Plaza Street to get a good look at the new piece of equipment, a Pierce Enforcer featuring a 525-horse power motor, a 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump and a 750-gallon water tank.
It is equipped with side impact and rollover protection, cameras on all sides with a visual recording system, and a custom design that significantly lowers both the rear hose bed and crosslay handlines. Its length is a few inches shorter than the station’s current engine, which will make it easier to make tight turns in historic downtown Leesburg.
The new engine seats six firefighters and cost almost $700,000.
Myers said the volunteer fire company relies heavily on donations from community members, but the expensive new vehicle was made possible only by financial support from the Town of Leesburg, Loudoun County government and the Loudoun County Combined Fire Rescue System.
Cook said it was a three-year effort to secure the funds and design the engine, all led by the company’s Apparatus Committee. “The residents of the Town of Leesburg and our neighbors around Loudoun County will be proud to know that this new engine will enable us to continue to provide the highest level of fire protection and emergency services.”
The Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company was formed in November 1803 by residents of Leesburg as the first fire company in Loudoun County, and only the seventh in Virginia and one of the first 100 in America. Today, the company operates with about 120 volunteers, in conjunction with the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue services.