The Pushback of Engine 56

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Engine 56 Pushback. Photo: Michael Marshall.

The tradition of a “pushback” of a new fire engine is carried on in the Charlottesville fire stations still and Crozet Volunteer Fire Department carried it out April 15 by officially rolling Engine 56, now their best pumper, into a main front bay. The term goes back to the days of horse-drawn wagons that were pushed back into their sheds to be at the ready.

CVFD covers a 135 square-mile area and assists across Albemarle County as well as into Augusta, Nelson and Greene Counties. It’s answering 800 calls a year—more than two a day on average—with an outstanding all-volunteer crew. 

The CVFD color guard ceremoniously processed into the open bay and once it was solemnly in place, the crowd joined the firefighters in reciting the pledge of allegiance. Chaplain Walt Davis offered a prayer. “We are so grateful for our department, who work tirelessly to serve and protect,” he said. “We pray for our community.”

Chief Mike Boyle gave credit to the department’s Truck Committee, “Thanks to all you guys. This truck replaces an old engine. It took more than a year, but we’re very proud of it. The mud flap says ‘Crozet Volunteers’ on it. We want everyone to know we are still all-volunteer. Why? They love this community. Each and everyone of you is important to us. You are part of our lives. This is our family. This is our home. We’re here to protect you.

“Two thousand hours of training are required of volunteers,” he said. “And additional training is needed for every leadership role. They make those sacrifices because they love you. We’re not here because we have to be, but because we want to be.”

White Hall Supervisor and Board Chair Ann Mallek said, “I’m here to celebrate with you. For 108 years we’ve had the CVFD. We—the citizens of Crozet—are so grateful for all you do. We want to strengthen that effort.”

Albemarle Fire Chief Dan Eggleston, who lives in Crozet, said, “Today culminates many years of work. I’m proud of the CVFD for their great achievement. This is a state-of-the-art apparatus. It can inter-operate with any engine at a scene.

“Crozet is a unique situation because of its urbanizing growth. But we have a lot of rural area around us, too.” 

The new engine, a 2017 Pierce Velocity Pumper, was built in Appleton, Wisconsin. It has a 525-horsepower engine designed to let it hustle to accidents on Afton Mountain. 

Chase Sandridge gave a short history of the department. “We started in 1910. There was a siren on top of the Cold Storage Building (now Mountainside Senior Living). Only six people in town were authorized to press the siren button.”

He had a series of slides to show. The first station on Main Street, since renamed Crozet Avenue, now a Western Albemarle Rescue Squad building, was shown with the volunteers out front. Then the new station put next to it, now WARS’s main building, again with proud firefighters around an engine. Then the current base on Three Notch’d Road. In the pictures that skip through time young men become grandfathers and in the end stand beside their grandsons.

“We like to think of ourselves as trendsetters,” said Sandridge. “We’ve taken a lot of first steps.” The screen showed an antique-looking pumper from the 1930s. “My grandfather saw this 1937 Seagrave delivered to Crozet on a flatbed rail car,” he said. “We had the first tanker truck with a tandem axel. We had the first enclosed cab truck.  We were the first to have compressed air foam.”

A drone video of Engine 56 driving into town and up to the station brought the timeline up to date.

“100 percent volunteer since 1910,” Sandridge summed up. 

The department hosted a reception afterward with cupcakes and a fancy sheet cake made to look like the engine. 

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