Last Saturday night, anyone in Montross that passed by Westmoreland County’s Volunteer Fire Department building could have seen what was likely the largest concentration of firemen you’d find in one spot in the county when a fire wasn’t involved.
That night, the fire department and its women’s auxiliary gathered to host an award ceremony as well as a banquet in honor of those gathered. Sadly, some were unable to attend, including the intended guest speakers. Instead, Ricky Landon and Eddie Weston, the president and chief of the WVFD respectively, stepped up to give their remarks, before putting sheriff C.O. Balderson in the hotseat.
“We are here with not as many as we hoped we would be,” Landon stated just before dinner, “There’s a lot of sickness going around, but we hope those that could not attend are doing well. I hate putting Sheriff Balderson on the spot like this, but he is a very gracious human being.”
“It’s a pleasure to be here,” Sheriff Balderson stated once he had arrived at the lectern, “And it’s a privilege to come and share this time with you. As I look around the room, I see so many experienced folks that have been with the fire department for a long, long time. For those that are here, I’d like to thank you. You’re the foundation for what the new people that come in will build on, and it is a great foundation.
“To the new folks here, I’ll say this,” he continued, “listen to what the older folks tell you. Don’t carry the attitude of a know-it-all, because you don’t. None of us do, so the information they share with you is invaluable. Put it to good use and take it for what it’s worth, because they will tell you from experience what they have done, what they have seen, the situations they have been in; it may not always match up, but you can probably draw something from it as you move forward.”
“The foundation that you have is great, and the building you’re going to make on top of that is going to be great as well. I’d like to give a round of thanks to all of these fine people, and to their spouses and significant others as well. Without your love and your admiration, these fine people would not be able to do what they do.”
It was after this that Mayor Cosgrove started swearing in the fire department officers, line officers, and the auxiliary. Chief Jay Hynson and his wife Heather, who is now the auxiliary’s reporter, were among those unable to attend.
Chief Eddie Weston read the 2021 year-end report of the WVFD’s activities. The department ran a total of 319 different calls compared to around 670 in the previous year. The department found itself in Colonial Beach four different times delivering mutual aid to their sister department, and about a quarter of their calls involved actual fires, and another 35% were related to EMS. The rest involved dealing with the aftermath of vehicle collisions. From there, chief Weston spoke of various expenses, including a $74,000 air compressor that was covered almost completely by a grant they were issued.
The auxiliary turned 50
The auxiliary was also celebrating its 50th anniversary, and marked the milestone by bringing out a large cake for everyone to take a slice of. In many ways, it has played just as pivotal of a role in Westmoreland’s Volunteer Fire Department being able to be the entity that it is today, as it organized fundraisers, dinners, and more, particularly whenever the Montross First Fridays roll around. Barbara Jean Jones gave a few remarks towards what they had been up to this year.
“We started doing something big twenty years ago,” she stated, “When we had our banquet that year, it was sleeting and snowing like crazy. In the auxiliary, it was a quiet year.”
Quiet does not mean uneventful though, as they used the year to upgrade their stoves, as well as purchase new life preservers for the rescue boat, which should arrive around March. Furniture is also due to arrive for the meeting room, and eventually, window blinds for the control room will also be purchased. Jones also gave a big shoutout to Malcom Lewis, who made quite a sight when he hopped into the bucket of a tractor to put the lights on the Spirit tree on the old courthouse lawn.
“He also added white lights to the normal colored ones, which made it stand out so much more,” Jones added, “It’s going to stay lit until the end of the month, and that’s at the request of the hospital workers, who are asking that people leave the lights on as a show of support.”
Just before everything was done, there was one final acknowledgement to make, however. It turned out that it was chief Weston’s birthday.
As people filed out, everyone knew this was just the end of round one. Many would be back the next morning, when the firehouse would be serving breakfast.