Just like nothing (else) on Earth: the old Ashburn Fire House
By Tim Jon
One of my favorite memories of my Dad is watching him run from our family car to catch (on foot, guys!) and jump onto a departing Fire Truck; we’d just been to the local Dairy Queen for after-dinner ice-milk treats, when the fire whistle blew (this was decades before the pager, the cell phone and most of the other high-tech gizmos) a few blocks away, and sure enough – here came the familiar red vehicle donned with hoses, ladders and most importantly – men in heavy firefighting gear.
I’m not sure if Dad was the Chief at that time, or one of the assistants (he saw more destructive incidents in World War II than most local crew-members would experience in a lifetime); I remember a quick goodbye to Mom and us boys, and we were all pretty proud at that moment that he was our Dad. And, recall, I initially said my favorite memory – but certainly not the only one; I’ve got a seemingly unlimited supply back there in the personal vault – and I’m very thankful for everyone.
Now, the above memory snapshot dates back to the mid-1960’s (and, yes, I know that makes me a very old specimen) – but this is the kind of image (along with the corresponding emotions) I relive every time I see a piece of firefighting apparatus, a fire truck – and especially – whenever I pass by a local Fire Station.
No surprise, then, that Dad made his appearance (albeit posthumously) when I took an early-morning drive to Ashburn to have another look at Station Number Six – which certainly predates my personal fire memories – with the original building completed in the mid-1940’s.
The local company formed after a tragic fire took the lives of three children in what back then was a small farming community. Now, the facility on Ashburn Road has an historic look to it, but it’s actually quite new – having replaced the original station in 2016. The brick-and-mortar construction (complete with a faceted turret) reminds me of an old-fashioned Armory for National Guard activities.
Yup, Dad would have approved – one of his proudest accomplishments was the completion of a new Firehouse in our hometown (in the late 1960’s, I believe). He would have truly been impressed at the sheer size of the Ashburn Company Six building, as well as a truly dazzling display of equipment seen through the open red doors.
My tenure as local News Director at Wage Radio in Leesburg expired several years before the opening of the current facility for Company Six in Ashburn, but I recall several visits to the original building in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Station had a distinctively ‘quaint’ look to it even back then, but I’m sure lots of other local residents – especially those connected to the Fire and Rescue Community – fondly remember the familiar landmark. Now it exists only in pictures (like the ones shared on the internet at the Station Six website), some of which many of us ‘old-timers’ carry around in our heads. And, as referred to in the opening of this story, I’ve got my Dad narrating the entire slideshow. He does a pretty good job, too. And, this is another moment I’m proud he’s my Dad.
Now, the Ashburn Fire Company represents a long-time volunteer service in Loudoun County, but one of its sister groups in Leesburg dates back much further; Members formed that Company in 1803 (the United States was less than 30 years old at the time), representing a veritable ‘bucket brigade’ long before the use of motorized fire trucks.
I remember attending events at the Leesburg Fire Stations as well, and to virtually every public-emergency-type facility scattered across Loudoun County back in those news-covering years, as well as some notable live fires (like the loss of part of the Waterford Old School on High Street), and every time I covered these events, Dad would show up (as per his sworn ‘duty’) to provide counsel, and moral support.
And, sitting in my personal vehicle outside the Ashburn Fire House on my last early-morning visit, I mused at the turnout of fates which led me here, from my original home in a small Minnesota town, to this place of local emergency response; I never became a Firefighter (my talents – if any – lay elsewhere) but, thanks to some very sound advice and example, I certainly grew to respect – and I fervently hope – at least partially understand those who have – and who continue to serve.
Now all I need to do is find another young, local News Director – full of “P and vinegar” and share my memories – along with Dad’s.