The renovated fire station of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department was officially rededicated Saturday morning, with fanfare, a slew of officials from the local government and surrounding stations, firefighters’ hats for the children, and free food and tours of the station.
Rather than a ribbon cutting, Fire Station Chief Jeff Gray and Fairfax County Fire Chief Michael Neuhard uncoupled a ceremonial fire hose stretched across one of the garage bays, but not before they and several others had had their say and paid their respects to the station and its history.
David Paulison, former career firefighter and now director of FEMA had been scheduled to be the rededication’s keynote speaker, but he had been called to New Orleans, so the department had opted for a more familiar face — that of former member Steve Savia, who is now a consultant and teaches fire protection technology at Durham Technical Community College in North Carolina.
Savia recalled hanging around the town’s fire station since the time he was 7, when it sat on Church Street where Bazin’s is now located. He remembered watching his father speak at the present-day station’s original dedication nearly 50 years ago. “This has always been a part of my life and will always be a part of my life,” he said.
Savia spoke of carnivals held where the parking lot now lies and Christmas tree sales along the side of the station. When he used to call Bingo there, he said, he was constantly corrected on his pronunciation of “orange.” He remembered when volunteers came from across town when the alarm went off, and they parked on the street outside the station and jumped on the back of the truck.
“I loved listening and learning from the old guys,” he said.
Firefighters, said Savia, like to think of themselves as “unimpeded by progress.” However, change always comes about one way or another, he said, noting that he was among one of the department’s first groups of emergency medical technicians. These days, he said, the station has “well-trained professional medics. Before, it was just some instruction from local doctors.”
He reminded his audience that Vienna’s volunteer fire fighters had first gathered at Leon Freeman’s home, now known as the Freeman House. Later, a station was built on Church Street. When the present-day station was dedicated 48 years ago, “it was fully updated,” Savia pointed out. Now, the newly renovated station reflected the new needs of the town, he said.
Since 9/11, he concluded, there has been an increase in volunteer fire service. He noted the many young faces in the assembled crowd. “I hope that there are boys — and girls — who will want to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before and those who serve today,” he said.
After the ceremony, Savia recalled that there had once been seven Savias on the station’s roster simultaneously – himself and Phil, Alfred, Sam, Rick, Tim and David Savia. “My sister was always upset because she couldn’t be a member,” he said, adding that it was not until the ‘70s that women were allowed to join the station.
VARIOUS OTHER SPEAKERS had the chance to say a few words.
Gray noted that about half of the $3 million that were spent on renovations came from the county, which had several representatives present.
Neuhard mentioned that the effort required support at all levels, from the station’s volunteers, who worked on the capital campaign to raise money, on up to the state legislature, which matched some of that money.
Howard Springsteen, Vienna’s fire department president, recognized the work of Sumter Contracting Corporation, which performed the renovation.
“What we’re celebrating here today is the community coming together to protect themselves,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair Gerry Connolly. He said he hoped the protection would not be needed. Of the station’s fire fighters Connolly said, “My prayer is that they have the most boring years of their lives.” He also credited Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins with making sure the board backed the effort.
Hudgins, however, said the event was to recognize the dedication of the station’s volunteers, who kept officials informed as to what needed to be done and helped them to do it.
Del. Steve Shannon (D-35) said the department exemplified solid relationships between volunteers and career fire fighters, as well as between first responders and the community. He recalled that the Town Council had asked for support of the fire station as part of the town’s legislative package. “One of the things that became clear is that the capital campaign of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department is very important to us,” he said. He and state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34) pushed for $50,000 from the state for the project.
“It’s just so reassuring to know that in Vienna, we’ve got the best serving us,” said Devolites Davis.
“This fire department has always been a community effort,” said her husband, U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11). He recalled when “every able-bodied man and boy in town served the department. It is an operation, said Davis, “literally, by the people and for the people.”
MOST OF THE RENOVATION was completed by March, just over a year after reconstruction had begun. While the department operated from trailers in the parking lot, the entire building was gutted, rebuilt from the inside out and expanded to increase floor space by about 60 percent.
Additions include storage and office spaces, a decontamination room, a porch with a grill and picnic table, and expanded sleeping quarters. Facilities that had been forced to share space, such as the boardroom and administrative office, the gym and the men’s locker room, and the TV room and the training room, now have separate spaces. Many facilities, including the kitchens, have been updated, and the Bingo hall was refurbished.