BELPRE - The Belpre Volunteer Fire Department is looking forward to celebrating two milestones.
"This year, 2014, is the 80th anniversary of the official establishment of the department and 50 years since we started doing medical runs," said Chief Eric Sinnett.
The Belpre Volunteer Fire Department began in 1934 with a total of 15 firefighters and very little equipment.
Jolene Craig Special to the Times
Belpre Fire Chief Eric Sinnett, right, and longtime member Donnie Burch, left, stand in front of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department's first truck.
"When they first started, when a call came in, the Parkersburg Fire Department would drive their truck across the bridge and the Belpre firefighters would take it to the fire," said longtime member Donnie Burch. "There was a lot of mutual aid."
The following year, in 1935, the department purchased their first engine, which they still own and use for parades.
"For many years after we first started, we did runs as far away as Beverly because we were the closest fire department," Burch said. "Our ... farthest run was a refinery fire in St. Marys in the early 1940s and that was big."
After 30 years fighting area fires, the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department decided to branch out and received training to respond to medical calls.
"We began working emergency medical squad calls in 1964," said Sinnett. "At that time, there were no emergency medical technicians (EMT), they were called emergency victim care units."
Until the department began medical runs, local funeral homes used their hearse vehicles as ambulances, Burch said.
"The funeral homes responded to the medical calls, which I don't think would go over well now," Burch added.
Since it began 80 years ago, the department has grown to 42 firefighters, including 17 trained emergency medical responders.
"The Belpre fire department is a great bunch of people to work with and be around," said Burch, who joined as a firefighter in 1959. "I can't imagine not being a part of it."
To celebrate these two anniversaries, the department is hoping to have a large party and cookout during National Fire Prevention Week, which is scheduled for Oct. 5-11.
"We will also dedicate a new station two sometime soon, which I think is a great way to mark the 80th anniversary of the fire department," Sinnett said. "But, as far as other celebrations, we will do something, but aren't sure exactly what or when."
Although construction has not begun, Station 2 is expected to be completed in May.
This new station will be on Farson Street and will replace the old Station 2, which will be torn down as part of the current expansion of the Marietta Memorial Health Systems facilities at Health Bridge and widening of the street.