HISTORY OF THE O.W.L. VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
History, as it pertains to this organization and all other things, is simply a matter of random chance. With regard to O.W.L., we know, or will know, the beginning of the department and also how the 50 years will have ended. Those years in between could not have been foretold by even the most wise of all mankind.
Recent memories are carried by all except the very new (they will surely come to even the greenest rookie); many still remember events and people of more recent happenings of say, the last ten years or so. Fewer still have thoughts and ties to the past twenty or so years, and virtually gone are those who lived the beginning.
Therefore, a series of unrelated facts, events, people, and circumstances have all combined to form this organization, believed by all who care, to be greater than the whole. Fifty years have rushed by – not altogether quietly but always together.
The following is a brief chronology of a great many of those events. As one reads and looks through the pages, please notice the various bits and pieces taken from the minutes of the regular monthly meetings from 1938 ‘till 1988! A small portion from many will be included. Some are humorous; some touching; others will amaze and somewhat dumbfound you – all are true.
Necessity being what it is, “the mother of invention,” the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department (O.W.L.) was formed because there was simply no fire department in eastern Prince William County or even between the cities of Alexandria and Fredericksburg, Virginia. There are some stories that the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department was formed in September 1936, but not formally organized until September 16, 1938. This writer could not verify that legend, however. The actual charter for O.W.L. took still another two years and was granted in September 1940.
The very first meeting was held in the house of R.S. Hall, at which time the Town Council of the Town of Occoquan discussed the need for a fire department and how to purchase the apparatus. Within two days, at a meeting in Occoquan High School, Fred Lynn was elected Fire Chief and Charles Pierce the first President of what was to become O.W.L. V.F.D.
No actual pictures of O.W.L.’s first pumper could be found. From all accounts, however, the 1918 American LaFrance was a true classic in every sense of the word – solid tires, chain drive, and hand-cranked siren. O.W.L. had gotten the machine, in a used condition, from the City of Baltimore suburb Eastport, Maryland. The unit served faithfully for a number of years.
The original fire station was located in Occoquan near Mill Street and Poplar Alley. The station consisted of just two bays – one for the pumper and one for everything else.
In 1946, another, much larger, building was obtained from Leary Lumber Company and remodeled as a fire station. The original pumper had given way to a 1939 International Class A. The new station housed this unit and two others (a brush truck & Civil Defense unit).
In 1958 the O.W.L. V.F.D. erected a new facility to expand operations and be of greater assistance to the Woodbridge citizens. The station, located on Jefferson Davis Highway, named “Friends Station,” was then O.W.L.’s second station. The station call number later changed to Company #12 when the original department station moved to its current location on “F” Street, and Prince William County began numbering each station individually.
Company #2 (Botts Station) was dedicated on August 23, 1969. Six apparatus bays, all the required facilities, and a large community hall made it one of the most formidable structures in the area at that time. Bingo is played in the hall twice weekly, but it has been, and will continue to be, a haven for the area citizenry and haggard travelers in times of trouble.
Just about the time that Station #2 was dedicated, a group of individuals began the process of planning contingencies for yet another station. With the emergence of the Lake Ridge Housing Development and the need for more immediate coverage, the membership, after more than a decade of planning, built their third fire station and dedicated it in the summer of 1980. The Lake Ridge Station, located on Hedges Run Drive, has not only expanded our area for those in need of assistance, but has given the membership the added requirement for greater individual and company responsibility.
There have been a number of renovations of existing structures over the years. Two of the more extensive are: almost a complete rebuilding in the early 1970s at “Friends” station, adding apparatus bays, administrative, and sleeping quarters; and the early 1980s addition of the Botts Station administrative area to add training facilities, expanded female sleeping quarters, and more.
As preparation of this album ends, a completely new Station #12 will begin. The new station will hopefully be occupied sometime during our 51st year.
A history of O.W.L. must also include mention of another important aspect of the fire department - the rescue squad that was formed in 1955 to provide emergency medical services to the community. With the closest hospital over thirty minutes away through winding roads, the rescue squad had the opportunity numerous times to test their skills. This type of transport lasted until the building of Potomac Hospital within minutes of all of OWL's fire stations.
In the beginning, the squad was manned mostly by volunteer firefighters but was augmented by the ladies. Members of O.W.L. take great pride in the fact that their membership was the first to break this barrier. Females are now an integral part of not only the rescue squad, but also all of the workings of the department including firefighter, incident officer and pump operator. One of O.W.L.'s highest annual honors in the "Betty Limerick" service award, which is given annually to the person reflecting the true spirit of volunteerism.