History

Founding


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:
  • Bridgewater
  • Elkton
  • Grottoes
  • Hose Co. 4 (Rock Street Station in Harrisonburg)
  • McGaheysville.

Original Staff


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:
  • Nick Astrab - Bridgewater
  • Russell Lee Barr - Hose Co. 4
  • Roger Raines - Grottoes
  • Danny Ritchie - Elkton
  • Jeff Werner - McGaheysville

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.

Leadership


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.

Growth


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.

Promotions


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:

  • Lt. Russel Barr - Co. 40
  • Lt. Danny Ritchie - Co. 15
  • Lt. Jeff Werner - Co. 30
  • Lt. Jerry Bauserman - Co. 50
  • Lt. Chris Ritenour - Co. 20


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:

  • Captain Russell Barr - Co. 50
  • Captain Danny Ritchie - Co. 15
  • Captain Jeff Werner - Co. 80
  • Captain Woody Brown - Co. 40
  • Captain Jody Quesenberry - Co. 30
  • Captain Ike Diehl - Co. 20

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                                Training Captain

Pat Trimble                                         Station Captain                                 Broadway

Jody Quesenberry                           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

Karen Will                                            Fire & Life Safety Lieutenant

Brent Powell                                      Station Lieutenant                           Elkton

John Coaker                                       Station Lieutenant                           Clover Hill

Chris Tusing                                        Station Lieutenant                           Station 41

Bryan Smith                                        Station Lieutenant                           Hose Company #4

Jolene Powell                                    Station Lieutenant                           Grottoes

Jeremy Ramsey                                Station Lieutenant                           Bridgewater

Denver Sampson                              Station Lieutenant                           McGaheysville

Micheal Peake                                Station Lieutenant                           Broadway




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


Shifts


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.

Special Operations



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.