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Chesapeake Fire Department History
The year was 1892. In the suburb of South Norfolk, Virginia, a handful of citizens, concerned about the lack of fire protection in their small community, met to organize a local fire department. Little did they realize that their efforts would lay the foundation for what would become, 71 years later, a large, municipal fire department providing protection to 365 square miles of residential and commercial development.
With the merger of the City of South Norfolk and Norfolk County on January 1, 1963, the City of Chesapeake was born. South Norfolk Fire Stations Number 1 and Number 2 joined forces with the Brentwood, Deep Creek, Fentress, Great Bridge, St. Brides, Sun Ray, Washington Borough and Western Branch Fire Departments to form the new City of Chesapeake Fire Department.
In 1892, a few citizens of South Norfolk organized the South Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department. The first elected chief was Captain George Funk. Under his leadership, they acquired an old handrawn reel which was outfitted with a few hundred feet of hose, and stored in an old building located behind J.T. Lane's Drug Store on Liberty Street.
In 1911, the department secured a horse-drawn hose reel from the Berkley Fire Department who had obtained it from Jamestown. The reel and wagon was pulled by any horse that could be pressed into service when an alarm was sounded. Early in 1915, Mr. Ira Johnson of the Greenleaf Johnson Lumber Company donated a mule to the department which was promptly traded for a horse. The horse was maintained at fire headquarters and used strictly for fire department purposes only. Unfortunately, the feed bill soon exceeded the department's resources and the first official fire house had to be sold to pay the debt. D.W. Raper and Son then donated the services of their horse to pull the wagon to and from fires.
In 1917, the South Norfolk Fire Department moved into a new era of fire service. Under the dedicated and excellent leadership of the department's second chief, S.H. Dennis, the department was completely motorized. A 500 GPM American LaFrance was purchased and a Ford truck chassis was converted to a hose wagon. During this time, the citizens of South Norfolk were more interested and supportive of the fire service, and the new equipment was paid for within two years.
Today the department has 15 Stations to cover the city with 3 Battalion Chiefs, 17 Engines, 3 Ladder and 9 Medic Units on duty each day. With an average of over 26,000 calls a year, Business Inspections, School Drills, Station Tours, Demonstrations, and mandatory 2 hours of training each day, the old days of playing checkers are long gone.