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Memories Displayed at Chantilly Fire Station

Chantilly's Fire Station 15 on Walney Road is rich in history. And this Friday, Nov. 30, at 4:30 p.m., it will unveil a display of its memorabilia.

Capt. Mike Runnels, the C-shift commander, is retiring next September and, while looking through some of his things, he came across his old firefighters coat.

HE WORE IT when Station 15 was across the street from its current spot behind Anita's Restaurant on Route 50 west. And seeing it again brought back a flood of memories to him, so he came up with the idea of a display of memorabilia from that station.

"I thought we should do something with the coat, instead of it sitting in a box," explained Runnels. "I wanted to bring back the fire station's history and keep the tradition rolling."

So he tore apart an old bookcase in the station's main dayroom and rebuilt it, turning it into a 4-feet high by 8-feet long, permanent showcase with a glass front. Then the other firefighters began donating their memorabilia and the interest and excitement grew.

Station Commander Mike Ciarrocchi contributed an old air pack, Runnels donated his coat and other firefighters donated some old firefighting tools, plus old nozzles used on the hoses.

Pete West, a former volunteer chief at Station 15, contributed an original, aluminum, fire helmet; and Fairfax County Fire Department photographer, Scotty Boatright, ponied up some of his photos of the original fire trucks and equipment used at the old fire station.

There's also a picture of Doug Smith, Station 15's first volunteer fire chief. And longtime Chantilly resident Dallas Porter Hutchison — the station's first paid firefighter — donated his old helmet, boots and pants from some 40 years ago.

"He was there for 30 years," said Runnels. "And he'll be there Friday to see what was done with the items he donated."

Runnels is in his 28th year with the Fire Department and has been stationed at Chantilly three, separate times for 5 1/2 years total. He returned a couple years ago to lead the C shift.

The public is invited to Friday's unveiling of the memorabilia display, as well as anytime in the future. All in all, it should be a well-deserved tribute to some unsung heroes.