The birth of Rockingham County Fire Rescue began fall 1979. The purpose of this service was to enhance daytime responses within specific areas of the County. The initial Fire Stations selected to receive staffing were:
Candidates for employment were required to pass a physical agility test and then were interviewed by County officials, volunteer fire chiefs and presidents. The first staff and their station assignments were:
Personnel assignments were to maintain apparatus and stations in a state of readiness and to serve as the driver / operator of apparatus. Career staff were also requested to assist with training of volunteers.
The shifts were from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday and off on Holidays.
This new service was placed under the direction of Joe Paxton, director of finance and purchasing. The frontline supervisor for the career staff was the volunteer fire chief at their assigned stations. The county administrator at the time of the beginning of this service was William O’Brien.
Fire Rescue Administration Office
The locate of the Fire Rescue Administration Office began in the Mezzanine of the first County Office Building located at the corners of Court Square and East Market Street in Harrisonburg. The office remained there for years until being moved to the Home Extension Office Complex at the County’s Garage Property. Several years later, it was relocated to the East End of the County Office Building located at 20 East Gay Street in Harrisonburg. The next move was to its current location in the West Wing of the County Office Building.
Hazardous Materials Response
These staffing levels remained the same for several years. In the mid 80’s, the department was challenged with the responsibility for hazardous materials responses. The first growth in structure occurred when Firefighter Roger Raines was appointed hazardous materials officer. Firefighters Jeff Werner and Robbie Symons were named as deputy hazardous materials officers.
Deputy Hazardous Materials Officer Robbie Symons was appointed as the department’s hazardous materials officer in 1987. In 1990, Robbie Symons was appointed as the Operation Officer for Rockingham County. In 1993, Robbie Symons was promoted to the rank of first countywide fire chief.
During the 1990's the Department continued to grow by adding a second position to the currently staffed stations. The department identified the need for station and administrative officers to manage the additional responsibilities of the department.
In 1993 Robert A. Symons was selected at the Director of Emergency Services for Rockingham County.
In early 1997, the first administrative officers were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant; they were:
- Lt. John Huddle to oversee the Fire Marshal’s Office
- Lt. Jolene Flory to oversee Fire and EMS Training
In late 1997, the department promoted the first field officers to the rank of lieutenant. Those promoted were:
During the next several years, the department continued to grow and new positions were developed to include a Deputy Fire Chief and a part time public education officer.
- Jerry Bauserman - Deputy Fire Chief (1998)
- Karen Will – Public Education Officer
In 2003, the department promoted its first captains to assist with managing the additional personnel:
In 2008, the department experienced additional growth and promoted Lieutenant Joe Morris and Lieutenant Steve Powell to the Training Division in July of 2008. Lt. Morris focused on the Fire Training while Lt. Powell was tasked with the delivery of EMS training throughout the county.
2008 also saw the promotions of Jeremy Holloway and Paul Helmuth to the rank of Assistant Chief
In 2010 Captain Jeff Michael was promoted to the position of Assistant Fire Chief
In July 2012, Chief Robert Symons retired after 31 years of service and Jeremy Holloway was promoted to the rank of Fire Chief
In 2012 Joe Morris was promoted to a Battalion Captain to oversee the Training Division and Lt. Bryan Smith was promoted to the Fire Training Officer for the Department.
In July 2016 Master firefighter Tyler Jessup was promoted to the Fire & Life Safety Division to assist with the delivery of the school programs and as an additional Fire Marshal. Dustin Gladwell also joined the Training Division as the new Fire Training Officer while Lt. Smith went back into the field as a station officer.
In July 2017 Captains Joe Morris and Clay Shiflet were promoted to the rank of Battalion Chiefs. These new positions allowed for better oversight for a growing department. The Fire Marshal’s office underwent some restructuring and Captain Joe Mullens was promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief.
In July 2019, Lt. Steve Powell was promoted to the rank of Division Chief of EMS to oversee the delivery of emergency services throughout the County. Joe Mullens was promoted to the rank of Division Chief of the Fire & Life Safety Division. Dustin Gladwell was promoted to the rank of Captain to oversee the Training Division; Lt. Dennis Albertson was promoted to EMS Training Officer and Lt. David Huddle was promoted to the Fire Training Officer.
2020 Current Officers
Jeremy Holloway Fire Chief
Jeff Michael Deputy Fire Chief
Joe Mullens Division Chief
Steve Powell Division Chief
Joe Morris Battalion Chief
Clay Shiflet Battalion Chief
Dustin Gladwell Division Chief of Training
Chris Tusing Station Captain Broadway
Pat Trimble Station Captain Hose Company #4
Doug Gooden Station Captain Station 41
Noah Keller Station Captain Elkton
Greg Gooden Station Captain Bridgewater
Caleb Bailey Station Captain Grottoes
Sean Taylor Station Captain McGaheysville
Dennis Albertson EMS Training Lieutenant
David Huddle Fire Training Lieutenant
Stephanie Brown MTC Training Lieutenant
Todd Spitzer Asst. Fire Marshal, Lieutenant
Tyler Jessup Fire & Life Safety Lieutenant
Brent Powell Station Lieutenant Elkton
John Coaker Station Lieutenant Clover Hill
Josh Taylor Station Lieutenant Hose Company #4
Bryan Smith Station Lieutenant Station 41
Jolene Powell Station Lieutenant Grottoes
Jeremy Ramsey Station Lieutenant Bridgewater
Denver Sampson Station Lieutenant McGaheysville
Micheal Peake Station Lieutenant Broadway
Tyler Simmons Station Lieutenant Station 41
Massanutten Technical Center FIre Rescue Program
In 2005, the Rockingham County Department of Fire and Rescue in coordination with the Rockingham County School Board developed and implemented a training program focusing on introducing young men and women into the fire service. The following Instructors have served as Program Directors and are committed to the success of the program which has won numerous state and national awards through the SkillsUSA program and produced many full time career firefighters throughout various states and the District of Columbia.
- Joe Morris 2005-2008
- Wayne Peer 2008-2012
- Jolene Powell 2012-2017
- Stephanie Brown 2017-current
The Department continued to grow during the 1990’s, which included experimenting with various work shifts. They included the 8am.-5pm. shifts, overlapping 8-hour shifts, and 10-hour shifts. The department then decided upon trying 12-hour shifts.
The department currently has six 24 hour stations and seven 12 hour stations.
This decision required hiring additional personnel and lead to another round of promotions.
During this time frame, the department identified several areas of special operations to improve services. The special operations identified were the need for a hazardous materials response truck to replace an outdated support unit and the need for a Dive / Water Rescue Team after several large scale flooding incidents. With the support of the Board of Supervisors, the department organized a joint water rescue team with the Sheriff’s Department in 1999.
Members of the original Fire & Rescue Water Rescue Team were:
- Woody Brown * Steve Powell
- John Hooke * Pat Trimble
- Rodney Malpass
- Alan Nicholson
The department currently has an All Hazard Technical Rescue Team with providers trained in nearly every discipline including Ground Search and Rescue, Swiftwater Rescue, Boat operations Machinery Extrication, Building and Structural collapse, Rope Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Trench Rescue, and several other specialties.
The department is part of the Regional Hazmat Team which consists of Hazardous Material Technicians and Specialists who work to mitigate a variety of Hazardous Material responses throughout the year.