The Tappahannock-Essex Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. is a small rural fire department of seventy members dedicated to the education and suppression of fires in our town and county. The County of Essex and Town of Tappahannock is located approximately fifty miles east of Richmond, Virginia on Route 360 and fifty miles south of Fredericksburg, Virginia and about one hundred miles north of Norfolk, Virginia on US Route 17. We cover an area of 261 square miles, with a population of 9,985 and approximately 4,500 homes and businesses.
The Tappahannock Volunteer Fire Department was founded on a come as you can basis around 1920. At that time, a hose reel was purchased. When a fire occurred, local men would pull the reel to the fire, hook to the town water system and fight the fire.
About 1933, the fire department ordered a new Ford/Oren pumper. This truck was delivered in 1935. This truck ran active service until about 1960. We restored the truck to like new condition in 2007 and have it on display at our building. At this time, the TVFD began to have meetings and was organized into companies.
In 1949, the TVFD took delivery of a new 1949 Chevrolet/Oren pumper. This engine remained in active service until the mid 1970’s. Up until this time, the fire apparatus was stored in various locations. The members saw a need to construct a fire station. This new fire station was completed in the early 1950’s. This building is located on Duke Street and currently houses a doctor’s office. This was a two story building with four bays and a meeting room downstairs and a large room upstairs for fund raising events such as dances and bingo.
In 1951, Mayor George Clanton and other members of the Fire Department began to see a need for emergency medical service in the town and county. Up until this time, the ambulance service was provided by the local funeral homes. Mayor Clanton and several members, the approached the Fredericksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad about the purchase of a used Pontiac ambulance. This unit was paid for by Mayor Clanton. The Rescue Squad remained a company of the Fire Department until 1976, when we separated to form two separate organizations.
The wives of the of the members of the TVFD met on April 8, 1952 with the members for the purpose of organizing a Ladies Auxiliary, with fourteen ladies present. The meeting was opened by the Chief of the Fire Department followed by the “Lords Prayer” by Reverend L. P. Bland, Chaplain of the FD. It was discussed and decided to elect officers for the period of five months, which would be the official time for re-election of officers to the Fire Department. The following were elected; President Mary Powell, Vice President Charlotte Bussels, Secretary Ida Hammack, Treasurer Irma Carneal. Publicity Chairman, Anne Hite, was appointed by the President. The purpose of the Auxiliary is to assist the FD in time of disaster, with fund raising and other long term projects. The members of the Auxiliary are very active in the Virginia State Firefighters Association with one member, Katherine Chinault, having served as President of the State Auxiliary. One of the charter members, Katherine Chinault is still active after many years of service. Another charter member, Ira Carneal, has returned to active service and is still working hard for the Auxiliary.
During the 1960’s, we purchased several new pieces of apparatus and began to change our approach to fire fighting. In 1960, we purchased a new Ford/American Fire pumper and a 1960 International 1,800 gallon tanker. The Ford remained in service until 1997. We also started to phase in SCBA’s and to use larger diameter hose than had been used in the past. In 1969, we purchased an International/American Fire Custom pumper. This truck carried 1,000 gallons of water and a 1,250 pump.
During the early 1970’s, we found our building to be extremely cramped and started to look toward building of a new fire station. At this time, we changed our name to the Tappahannock-Essex Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. The new building was completed in 1977 and is located at 620 Airport Road. At this same time, we purchased a new 1976 Mack R series truck to be made into a 2,500 gallon tanker with a 1,250 front mounted pump. This tanker was built by Fire Master of St. Louis. This truck has been moved to reserve status and will be replaced in 2009. We also purchased a 1952 Seagrave, 100 ft. tractor drawn ladder truck. This truck was replaced by a 1974 Seagrave 100 ft. straight truck.
For years, we fought brush and woods fires with our Class A pumpers and hand tools. In 1980, a local businessman and his family came to us and wanted to help with our firefighting needs. They donated a 1981 Chevrolet/E-1 mini pumper to us. In 1984, our International pumper was started to show wear and give us a lot of problems. We replaced this with a 1974 Seagrave pumper. In 1988, we took delivery of a new KME Renegade pumper. This engine has a 1,250 pump and 1,500 gallons of water. This was the beginning of a serious effort to upgrade our aging fleet of fire apparatus.
In September of 1994, one of our former Chief Officers came to us and told us that a local businessman had expressed a desire to see a second fire station in the county. This was to be at Center Cross. After three years we finished converting an old 2 bay service station into a 4 bay fire station. In 1996, we purchased a new Freightliner/Quality 1,250 pumper with 1,000 gallons of water. In 1998, we purchased a Freightliner/Quality tanker with 1,250 pump and 2,500 gallons of water.
About 1997, we were approached by a group of citizens who were concerned and willing to help with the fund raising for these projects. The Essex County Emergencies Services Support Group was founded and has been a great help.
Up until 1962, the Fire Chief was the Chief and Head Administrative officer
of the department. At this time, our department found that it needed to separate the administrative and line positions. The following have served as President; T. Jesse Chinault, Harry T. Gladding, Jr and Thomas (Tom) J. Chinault, Jr. The following have served as Chief; “Chummy” Ware, Charlie Wachsmuth, “June” Parker, N.P. Schackleford, Phillip Frank, Jesse Chinault, Harry T. Gladding, Ed Hammond, “Bud” Smith, Tallie Davis, Andrew Hammond, Bill Ellis, Wayne Thompson and Paul Richardson.
This is a brief history of our Fire Department and we would appreciate any correspondence that you would like to send us on our history that may have been left out. Our mailing address is; Tappahannock-Essex Volunteer Fire Department
P O Box 807
Tappahannock, Va 22560