Today's professional firefighters from the Mount Vernon Station, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, met their oldest surviving predecessor who served when it was still a volunteer operation.
Wilbur Carmalt, 95, was on hand last Wednesday when Sunrise Assisted Living, Mount Vernon, honored the firefighters with a thank-you luncheon and a plaque for their "outstanding commitment to the community." Carmalt made the formal presentation.
Having moved from his home to Sunrise in August, Carmalt has been a resident of the Mount Vernon area since 1959, when he and his bride bought their first home there. He served as a volunteer and officer of the Mount Vernon Station before it became all professional. He was born in Alexandria and grew up in the District of Columbia.
Carmalt was a firefighter with the D.C. Fire Department from 1930-45. He is also that department's oldest surviving member.
"I was injured in a wreck going to a fire. Our truck was responding to a call when a car broadsided the truck at an intersection," he explained. Those in the car were killed. Both Carmalt's elbows were broken. That ended his professional firefighting career.
HE THEN JOINED the federal government and was named Fire Protection Officer for the Military District of Washington. Following 23 years of service in that capacity, Carmalt retired and joined Fairfax County as a deputy sheriff. His final retirement occurred in 1980, according to his son James, who now lives in the family home.
James also served as a volunteer firefighter "as a very young man" but decided that was not for him. "I went to a fire in Stafford Landing on one of my first calls," he said. "When I grabbed the line, it darn near lifted me off the ground. That's when I realized I was no firefighter."
Sunrise Assisted Living has been recognizing each shift at Station #9. "We are doing this to honor the firefighters for all they do for our community every day in so many ways," said Joan Miller, director, community relations at Sunrise. This was the second of three luncheons.
Receiving the plaque from Carmalt for Station #9 were Lt. John Peters, Lt. Kenny Wolfrey, Lt. Allen Butson, Master Tech. Cathleen Cody, Tech. Christopher Kempton and Firefighter Jeanette Hannibal.