RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond firefighter Dan Del Rocco is knee-deep in spring cleaning. His chore comes laden with a heavy dose of the past.
“I could look at these things all day long,” Del Rocco said. “False call. False call. A lot of false alarms back then too.”
As the unofficial historian of Station 12, Lt. Del Rocco sifted through decades of hand-written history in Station 12’s logbooks. Books that haven’t seen the light of day in years.
“Engine 3. We don’t have an Engine 3 that was decommissioned,” Del Rocco said. “We still do the same activities they did 40 years ago.”
Built in 1908, the building at 2223 West Cary Street is Richmond's oldest active fire station. It is also one of the earliest on the East Coast.
Assistant Chief JR Hall said the fire station dated back to a time when crews responded to calls relying on different sort of horsepower.
“It gives you perspective into how old this station was,” Hall said. “Just knowing that this station was built around horses pulling hose wagons is unfathomable.”
The equipment has changed at 12 but the facilities really haven’t.
“If you look hard there is still a lot of stuff here that was here from Day 1 when they first opened this station,” Del Rocco said.
One attraction sets 12 apart across the entire department.
“When you think of fire stations you think of a few things. Dalmatians, obviously red fire trucks, and fire poles,” Del Rocco said.
Station 12 comes equipped with an authentic brass fire pole.
“When the tone drops and it is time to go, being able to slide the pole number 1 it is faster so it gets us out the door quicker,” firefighter John McCarty said.
After 114 years of constant use, the neighborhood firehouse is showing its age.
Firefighters like Tipp Stevenson wear the cramped quarters, peeling paint, and low-tech accommodations like a badge of honor.
“Yes. It has seen better days but the firefighters here love being here," Stevenson said. "You can ask them and they wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
But the sirens at the beloved station where generations of heroes plied their trade are going silent for good.
“It is kind of a bummer,” Del Rocco said. “I feel very fortunate that I got to spend some time here actually assigned here before they knock it down.”
The two-story brick building will be demolished and replaced with a state-of-the-art facility on the same spot.
For firefighter Tre Compton the end of the beloved station hurts.
“This station has so much tradition behind it,” Compton said. “I will miss the historic value behind this particular station. I will miss it. I will miss it.”
Until the lights go out forever firefighter John McCarty will savor each shift.
“Like we say this is our house,” McCarty said. “The station is old, so she has character. I call it character. She has a lot of character as you see.”
It is a landmark dripping with history, but it is time to turn the page on Cary Street. At Station 12, is proving to be bittersweet.
“Absolutely,” McCarty said. “It is my first firehouse in the city of Richmond so I’ll never forget it.”
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