The History Of the Danville Volunteer Fire Department (Danville, West Virginia)

By: John Holstein, Retired Chief

(Updated June 2017)

In 1932, the local citizens, led by R.C. Smith, organized a few men for the purpose of protecting the local area from the destructive forces associated with fire. In 1952 this organization was chartered with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office as the Danville Volunteer Fire Department. Since 1932 the Danville Volunteer Fire Department has provided many services to the community. From providing fire protection and rescue techniques to helping young members become productive members of their community.

In 1952 approximately fifteen local men were “on-call” to provide the citizens with assistance. Since that time, there have been numerous changes to the fire service that have given the population of Danville even better fire protection. In the beginning, the fireman utilized sparse hose and equipment to tackle the enormous task of fighting fire. The department began by using a portable creek pump and a few sections of hose. When the department began serving the community, inadequate space was availble to locate the equipment at any public owned building, the equipment was then located under an apple tree in the Chiefs front yard.

As timed passed, it was determined that the department, if it were to meet the needs of the community, should purchase a truck capable of fighting fire. The department met these needs by purchasing a cab and chassis, then proceeded to build their first real fire fighting mobile apparatus on their own. With the leadership of R.C. Smith, one of the best welders in the area, the department completed the truck in a relatively short amount of time. When the truck was finished, it was held in very high regard by the members. Noting that if the apparatus was to serve the community for any amount of time, the department would need a place to store it until needed. That is when the addition to the Town Hall was completed, again by the members of the department.

When the call came in for a fire, the local telephone operators had the job of dispatching the call to the members via telephone. That is, the operators would telephone each and every member of the department. Once notified of the call, the members would then respond to the station and pick up the truck and all equipment necessary to fight the fire. It was not until a while later that the fire siren was purchased and placed on top of the Tillinghast building in Danville. In the 1970’s, when radio dispatching became available in the area, the fire departments in the area went to an electronic paging system to notify the members of their needed response.

R.C. Smith gave thirty seven years of continuing service until his death in March of 1969. In 1960, H.E. Cooper became a member of the department and in 1969, began the duties as Fire Chief and remained the leader of the department until his retirement in 2004. Chief Cooper provided the local community with 35 years of unending service, and persistent leadership to the members of the department. Recognized as one of the most noteable members of the community, Chief Cooper provided uncountable man hours delivering his knowledge of firefighting to his men through extensive fire training. When Mr. Cooper assumed the reigns of Fire Chief, Wayne Price, a local businessman, was his Asst. Chief. Later Asst Chiefs were; William Smith, Johnny Nester, and upon Chief Cooper’s retirement, Richard Smith who took over as Chief in 2005. John Holstein was interim Chief from August of 2005 until December of 2005 when he was elected as Chief for a 4 year term. In 2006, Chief Holstein had to step down as Chief for personal reasons and Jeremy Thompson was selected to fill the vacancy. Chief Thompson held the position until 2007 when Chief Holstein returned. Holstein carried out his four year term until the end of 2011, when Chief Thompson was once again elected. Jeremy completed his term of four years and Justin Chafin was subsequently elected in 2015 and currently serves as Chief of the Danville Volunteer Fire Department.

Now, in the present, the Danville Volunteer Fire Department provides fire protection with award winning equipment, fully trained (through the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension) firefighters, competent officers, and their very own fire station. The Danville Volunteer Fire Departments’ Rescue Squad has been providing automobile rescue service since the beginning, but in 1975 the department acquired their very own set of Hurst Tools. Better known as the “jaws-of -life”, the “jaws” were the only set in southern West Virginia, and one of only four sets in the entire state.

Currently, the Danville Volunteer Fire Department’s response log typically indicates appx. 85% of the calls made as being of a “rescue” type response. From First-Responder (medical) calls, through Mountain Rescue and motor vehicle collisions, the Danville Volunteer Fire Department responded to 636 calls in 2008, so far being the greatest number of calls per-year that the Department has seen.

The equipment purchased with local contributions have also given the community something in return. Fire protection, rescue techniques and tools, emergency medical assistance; response for acts of nature disasters, electrical mishaps; and through the ISO or Insurance Service Organization, the equipment purchased by the department and the mutual aid response from associated fire departments have provided better fire protection and thus lowered ISO ratings, a perceptual decrease in your home insurance rates.

Through training and service, the Danville Volunteer Fire Department continues to strive to meet the needs of the community.


John Holstein, Retired Chief