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Founding Firefighter Dies

Charlie Fletcher was Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department's chaplain and president.

Charlie Fletcher, one of a group of men who founded the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department in 1944, died Sunday in his Sterling home. He was 82.

Fletcher was a longtime Ashburn farmer before retiring to Sterling.

When he could not enlist in the U.S. Army as a young man because of a heart murmur, he volunteered to watch the skies for spy planes as a corporal in the Virginia Reserve Militia Minute Men, serving the First Army Airforce Aircraft Warning Services Division during World War II.

But Fletcher's lasting legacy was born in 1944, when two fires — one a house fire killing three children and the other a fire at Ashburn School — prompted him and three other Ashburn men to organize the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department.

It opened in April 1945 with 40 volunteer members and met in a Baptist church before a firehouse was built in 1947.

THE COMPANY'S first purchase was a 1929 open cab pumper, bought for $3,225. A bell rung by a volunteer at Partlow's Store — still open today in Old Ashburn, although no longer in the Partlow family — alerted firefighters to the firehouse.

Fletcher served as the company's chaplain. He was also elected its president from 1969 to 1976.

In a 50th anniversary history of the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department, Fletcher reflected on his half-century of service.

"After all these years, it's still the same — the glory is still there," Fletcher, then 72, said. "When the siren goes off, you drop what you're doing and go on the call."

Fletcher is survived by his wife of 61 years, Gertie, and two adult children, Tommy and Barbara.

A viewing was scheduled at Adams-Greene Funeral Home in Herndon on Wednesday. A service was scheduled Thursday at 10 a.m. Flowers and donations may be sent to Calvary Baptist Church at 43825 Jenkins Lane in Ashburn, VA 20147, or the Ashburn Volunteer Fire And Rescue Department at 20688 Ashburn Road, Ashburn, VA 20147.

— By Suzannah Evans