YOUR HOMETOWN — Grottoes: Fire Museum Holds Decades ‘Worth Of Love’

Antiques, Photo Displays Tell Story Of 65-Year-Old Department

Posted: February 27, 2013

Assistant Chief Chandler Hardy and firefighter Ben Brown look over the Res-Q-Jack and Jaws of Life on the department’s new $600,000 rescue engine. Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R.
Jeanne Kirby, the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department’s historian, examines a hand-drawn, wagon-wheeled tanker used by citizen firefighters in Grottoes before the establishment of the department in 1948. Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R.
GROTTOES —  “Proudly serving since 1948” is emblazoned on the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department’s trucks and other apparatus.
It’s a sentiment evidenced throughout the organization’s museum, a room in the rear of its station on Third Street.

The museum, which opened last fall, is filled with photographs and newspaper clippings documenting nearly 65 years of service, as well as equipment, apparel and souvenirs.

“There’s been 65 years worth of love poured into this room,” said Jeanne Kirby, the department’s historian and wife of former Chief David Kirby.

The museum has been in the works since 2008, when the department celebrated its 60th anniversary.

As part of the celebration, historical items were put on display in the bingo hall, and members realized they had quite a collection, one worth showing off, Kirby said.

A $200,000 addition, including space for the museum and a gym, was completed last spring.

Kirby said it continues to be a work in progress, and she hopes to hold a formal dedication ceremony in August to coincide with the company’s 65th anniversary.

Preserving History

Though the organization had formed previous to Aug. 9, 1948, Kirby feels the date is a fitting “birthday” for the department because that’s when its first fire engine arrived in town.

The 1948 Hahn combination firetruck and pumper, with a price tag of $11,500 was thought to be the largest fire engine in the Shenandoah Valley at the time.

The Grottoes fire company sold the truck in the 1980s but bought it back about six years ago and restored it. It’s not on display at the firehouse but does make appearances at parades and other events.

At the museum, visitors can get a feel for what firefighters went through back when the Hahn, named for its manufacturer in Pennsylvania, was still in use.

A rubber uniform from the early years is one of four on display showing the evolution of firefighters’ gear.

The rubber gear reflects the tactics of the time, Kirby said, when firefighters did not enter buildings and would try to drown burning structures in water.

But the museum also conveys a rich history beyond physical mementos collected over the years, a history of people who’ve come together to meet a common goal.

The fire company is a family affair and a place where many of the Valley’s career firefighters got their start.

Holloway is just one example of a ubiquitous family name in the GVFD.

Andrew Holloway is Grottoes’ current chief, his brother, Jeremy, is chief of Rockingham County Fire and Rescue, and their father, Carson, is the chief for Augusta County.

Kirby said that preserving the department’s past could help it in the future.

“This shows where we’ve been,” she said, “and, hopefully, gives us direction.”

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or

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