GROTTOES — Through volunteerism, hybrid classes and dedication, the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department became the first fire department in Virginia to conduct a complete in-house Firefighter 1 and 2 class to provide six members with their certification.
Jason Nutty, Allisha Shifflett, Jill Gladwell, Kevin Campbell, Chester Carter and Randy Drumheller spent nearly half a year training at the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department, successfully completing their certifications.
Mayor Emily Holloway said the classes were taught by department officers volunteering their time to members to get them “certified to protect our community.”
“This was the first time this has ever happened in the Shenandoah Valley,” Emily Holloway said. “It is a huge class and hours and the volunteering of teaching saved the department a lot of donated money.”
Chief Jeremy Holloway of Rockingham County Fire and Rescue said the money saved from instructors alone was close to $15,000.
The Rockingham County Department of Fire and Rescue is made up of 10 volunteer fire departments, seven volunteer rescue squads, close to 530 fire and emergency medical service volunteers, 85 full-time staff and 25 part-time staff.
To become certified, the Virginia of Fire Programs and Rockingham County Fire and Rescue conduct a regional fire school that provides in-class training as well as on-the-ground training.
Classes through the county are open to all stations and typically have 20-30 people training.
Drumheller, who earned his certification through the GVFD, said the class he took was exactly the same as what is taught through the county, except he was able to take his in-class sessions on his own time. He could also spend more time on hands-on practice.
“Everything you would usually get they brought here,” Drumheller said. “We used all the equipment at the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department so we were able to practice on our own equipment.” Drumheller said.
The GVFD usually gets up to two volunteers through the county class, Drumheller said. By providing its own training, the volunteer fire department got six new volunteer members.
Drumheller said the classes started simple and gradually became more hands-on.
“We got to go to the fire grounds for live burns and run through the drills,” Drumheller said. “We broke up into two-people teams and did everything twice at the minimum.”
Drumheller said the in-house training provided more repetitions and a greater opportunity to train efficiently.
“You learn with the fire department for the fire department,” Drumheller said. “You are learning where you are at which is the coolest thing.”
Andrew Holloway, chief of GVFD, and Ben Brown, lieutenant of GVFD, were the main instructors for the Firefighter 1 and 2 class, according to Drumheller. C.J. Chandler, Jeremy Holloway, Carson Holloway, Donald Simmons, Jolene Powell, Rilo Michael and Caleb Bailey also volunteered their time for training.
“The list just goes on,” Drumheller said. “It is a piece of history.”
Emily Holloway said the work the GVFD did was “an innovative thing,” crafted for those involved.
“What makes them amazing I there desire to work around everyone’s work schedules,” Emily Holloway said. “The training is very important to them and they developed the work schedule to avoid the volunteers schedule.”