From its beginning in 1963, Westfield Volunteer Fire Department has strived to serve its community with dedication and hard work. Organized by the Westfield Ruritan Club after a tragic fire destroyed the parsonage at Westfield Baptist Church, the department has become one of the backbone organizations of our community. The hard work of 19 charter members laid the ground work for the beautiful building and well-maintained equipment we have today. The 19 charter members included: Joe Bill Jessup; Thomas L. Johnson; Stanley Christian; F. Vance Dearmin, Sr.; W. Roy Pell; Aldean R. Collins; Locke C. Riddle; William B. Christian, O.H. Hauser; Frank A. Jessup; R. Bryan Smith; F. Swanson Tilley; Harry T. Christian; R. Wayne Lowe; C.D. Ball; Lee S. Vinson; Jim Jessup; Jim Tilley; and Rex Gordon.
First Station & Fire Engine:
The abandoned agricultural building at the old Westfield High School, then serving as Westfield Elementary School, served as the department’s first station. Funds to run the station were obtained by asking each household and business within the response district to pay dues to the department. The collection rate, averaging between 70-80%, was among the highest in the county.
Under the leadership of the first Chief, Tommy Johnson, the newly formed corporation purchased a military surplus 1949 Ward-LaFrance fire engine previously used by the U.S. Marine Corps. The members took time away from their training, led by Surry County Fire Marshal Roy Cain, to rebuild and refurbish the engine. Next, they added an old fuel oil truck as a tanker which allowed the new department to place approximately 1300 gallons of water on the scene of a fire.
Under the leadership of Chief Frank Jessup in the 1960s and 1970s, the department purchased a state of the art fire engine in 1967 and tanker in 1970. In the early 1970s, the department was also one of the first in the county to install a new phone system that rang in the homes of 20 firefighters. They also obtained a military surplus 1951 Willys Jeep that was used as our first wildlands fire vehicle.
In the early 1970s, the department purchased a stand-alone military surplus mobile generator transported in an enclosed trailer. The massive generator was initially used to assist anyone in the community experiencing a death in their family. As was common in the era, funeral visitation didn’t happen at the funeral home or the church, but at the deceased resident’s home or the home of a loved one. Members of the department routinely provided traffic control at the home. The generator allowed the area to be lighted making it safer for neighbors to enter and exit the home as they comforted the grieving family. However, the primary use of this generator changed on a foggy Sunday night in February of 1975. That night, the truss-style bridge crossing the Yadkin River in Siloam, NC tragically collapsed sending 16 people into the cold river. Three people tragically lost their lives including a 3-year old toddler. At the time, very few fire departments and rescue squads had generators that produced enough power to light up a massive scene such as this. The call went out over the telephone lines for generators. Firefighters Aldean Collins, Rayford Taylor and others responded our generator that provided most of the electrical power for the initial rescue efforts. Although powerful generators have gotten much smaller, our department had the insight to realize that electrical power was necessary at an emergency scene and has maintain some type of on-scene generator ever since.
New Facilities & other modernization:
In 1980, under the leadership of Chief Grant Christian, the department was one of the first in the county to obtain state of the art 4.5 Scott SCBA Air Packs. With the upgrade in Surry County’s centralized communication, we also purchased our first modern pagers. By having community fundraisers, the department also equipped each member with OSHA/NFPA approved turnout gear. However, one of the biggest projects taken on by the department was the building of new facilities a half-mile from the original station. John Kuhl led a building committee that planned and oversaw a new station with 4 bays in the front, a meeting room, kitchen, radio room, and a back bay that could not only house additional apparatus but serve as a maintenance area.
Medical First Responder Group:
In 1985, at the urging of Surry County Emergency Manager Wayne Ashworth, the Department began training a group of firefighters as medical first responders. This group learned basic life-saving skills such as CPR and advanced first aid then responded on EMS calls within our district ahead of ambulances coming from Pilot Mountain, Mount Airy, Pinnacle, and Sandy Ridge. The charter members of this original group of First Responders included: Bob Nelson, Robin Estes, Linda Trivette, Grant Christian, Don Riddle, Grant Tilley, Larry Hutchens, Stanley Christian, Paul Johnson, Gary Tilley, Phil Sutphin, and Rayford Taylor.
Creation of the Westfield Fire Response District:
Also in 1985, the Surry County Commissioners declared our response district an official NC Fire Service district and allowed the county to collect up to 15 cents on the $100 of valued property within our district, thus changing our method of funding. Shortly after, the Stokes County Commissioners followed suit. We are proud of the fact that our property tax rate has consistently been one of the lowest in the county for the number of residents served — making our department one of the most fiscally responsible departments in both Surry and Stokes County. Much of the credit for the fiscal responsibility of the department goes to its early treasurers; Harry Christian and John Kuhl.
Further Modernization in the 1990s:
Under the leadership of Chief Jeff Inman and Asst. Chief Rayford Taylor, a truck committee drew up specifications to purchase our first modern diesel fire engine — a 1991 fire engine built by Grumman Corporation on an International Chassis. This truck not only allowed us to double our pumping capacity, but allowed us to carry such necessary equipment as a smaller portable power generator, 10 SCBA packs and spare bottles, and 200 ft of both 1 3⁄4 and 2 1⁄2 inch preconnected hose. It also had room for up to 1,000 ft of supply hose making it much more efficient to move water to a structure fire hundreds of feet off the main road.
Junior Firefighter Program:
In 1995, the Board of Directors decided to begin a Junior Firefighter program. The purpose of the program was to obtain future qualified adult firefighters with knowledge of our organization and district, and to give the young people of Westfield an opportunity for community service. Firefighters Charlie Linville and Phil Sutphin served as the first advisors. The advisors developed a list of regulations that stressed safety, academics, training, and other community and religious activities. Within a year of its inception, the program provided us with a fully qualified firefighter – Glenn Lamb. Not only has Glenn served as a senior firefighter, he has continued an emergency services career in communication and law enforcement. Other notable members produced by our Junior Firefighter program include: Jonathan Sutphin (current Chief), Matt Martin (Deputy Chief, firefighter, and rescue squad member), Jay Hill (current officer, Ararat VFD), Tyler Brim (current member of the Board of Directors), Seth Brim (firefighter and financial advisor to the department), Matthew Hutchens (first part-time paid firefighter, and full-time firefighter at King FD), Andrew Inman (NC State Highway Patrolman), Jacob Kline (firefighter – Winston-Salem FD), Matt J. Martin (firefighter and member of Board of Directors), Jordan Smith (current officer and President of the Board of Directors), Zack Peeples (officer in Pilot Knob VFD), and Chris Wall (firefighter in Pilot Knob VFD and former member of Pilot Mtn Rescue Squad),
21st Century Equipment Modernization:
Shortly before the turn of the century, a committee led by Chief Jeff Inman developed
specifications for a new tanker that was unlike anything in both Surry and Stokes Counties at the time. In late 1999, we took delivery of a
new S&S Corporation designed tanker that carried 1550 gallons of water on an International chassis. This tanker was unique in that it
contained an elliptical designed, stainless steel tank allowing for safer operation on the rural roads of our district. Unlike other elliptical
tankers in our area, the tanker was small enough to navigate the majority of rural driveways and steep terrains in our district but big
enough to provide all of the modern needs of a rural water tanker — including the ability to dump its 1550 gallon load in less than a
minute into a drop tank and return to a water source.
From the department’s earliest days, a static water source has always been one of the districts problems to overcome. Much of that problem has been solved by mutual aid agreements with surrounding departments. However, Chief Jeff Inman led a team that provided the ultimate answer to a static water source within our district. In the mid-2000s, we installed a 32,000 gallon underground poly water tank purchased from a company in California. Firefighters Chris Wall and Gray Stevens worked with Chief Inman to properly anchor and bury the tank beside our station. This tank fills trucks after an incident using an internal electric water pump. However, it also contains a 6-inch “dry” hydrant that will deliver up to 1500 gpm of water to quickly fill trucks during an emergency. We also added several dry hydrants using ponds and streams throughout isolated points in the district bringing water sources even closer to the emergency scene.
Chief Inman’s committee also began designing a new wildlands fire vehicle that was also different from similar vehicles in the county. This vehicle was built on a second-hand dual-wheel chassis obtained from Pike Electrical Corporation. After learning from the drawbacks of other wildlands vehicles owned by us and our surrounding departments, this innovative design included a low-profile water tank to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. It also contained not one, but three attack hose reels. It included a heavy-duty hydraulic wench and space for needed brush firefighting equipment including a portable floating pump. The truck’s pumping features could be operated from a rear pump panel on the back of the truck similar to the pump panel of a fire engine. By using the surplus, mechanically sound chassis and a local vendor that did much of the fabrication, the cost of the truck was about half the cost of a typical new wildlands fire vehicle.
Main Engine Replacement:
In 2005, Chief Inman again led a committee to replace the old 1967 engine. The result was a modern designed fire engine build by Ferrera Corporation that would allow us to remain state of the art well into the 21st Century. In 2014, Chief Inman’s committee again drew up specifications to replace our 1970 Chevrolet Tanker with another modern tanker. This design of this tanker centered around the successful design of the 1999 tanker but contained modern features that allow the driver to dump its 1500 gallons of water from inside the cab. It also has a backup camera and an LED lighting system that gives more light for the scene while consuming less power.
ISO Homeowners Insurance Rate Reduction:
Although planning began in the late 2000s under Chief Inman, Deputy Chief Greg Inman, and Assistant Chief Phil Sutphin, the department began a massive push to lower our ISO homeowners insurance rating under the leadership of newly installed Chief Jonathan Sutphin and all the members of the department. This effort included a total overhall of our record-keeping system, adding and marking approximately 30 additional water points throughout our response district so that no structure was less than a mile-and-a-half from a rated ISO water source (a source that would flow 250 gpm for two hours). We also improved the equipment we carried and the training each member received. The result of this effort was to lower our insurance rating from a 9E to a 5/9E in 2019; thus saving property owners hundreds of dollars on the property insurance. One of these improvements was tied closely to the emerging smartphone technology. Assistant Chief Phil Sutphin along with other department members worked with surrounding departments to obtain the Active911 app for each members’ smartphone that not only backs up a county paging system but also provides a detailed map to the emergency event. The map also shows our water points, preplans for the larger structures in our district, and the location of responding members.
Part-Time Paid Staff:
With the lifestyles and responsibilities of the average resident in our district changing through the years, along with stricter mandates placed on the department by the State and Federal government, it’s much harder to give the time and effort needed to be a volunteer firefighter than it was in the past. Although we still maintain a roster of more than 20 trained volunteers, manpower shortages — especially in the daytime — continue to be a problem. Chief Sutphin along with the Board of Directors implemented a part- time paid staffing of the district in 2017. Matthew Hutchens, grandson of charter member Harry Christian, became our first part-time paid staff. With the support of both Surry and Stokes County, we attempt to man the building during the daytime hours three days a week. This not only helps with our ISO rating and keeping our equipment maintained, but it ensures that we can put a fully qualified firefighter/EMT and apparatus on an emergency scene during the most common times when our volunteers are working to support their families.
New Addition to our Existing Facilities:
In 2017, Surry County Emergency Manager John Shelton approached Chief Sutphin and the
Board of Directors about placing a Quick Response Vehicle in our station staffed with state certified paramedics 24 hours a day to cover
the northeastern corner of Surry County for medical and trauma emergencies. This brought a need to add living and sleeping quarters in
our current facilities — something we did not have. Because our building was quickly becoming too small to house modern fire apparatus, the Board of Directors were already considering expanding our facilities. With the request from the county for living/sleeping
quarters, the department decided to undergo a project to add to our facilities. Chief Sutphin, along with the Board of Directors, began
developing plans that not only included sleeping/living quarters, but four additional bay that could house larger apparatus in the future,
along with a much larger meeting room and office space for the always-increasing amount of paperwork required by the state
government. The department hired Bobby Patterson of ADA Architecture Design to develop that plans for our new addition. After obtaining
approvals from Surry County and generous contributions from citizens such as Kenneth Lowe (son of Charter Member Wayne Lowe),
construction began in late 2019 on the new facilities. The new addition was dedicated in memory of the original 19 charter members in a
ceremony on September 19, 2020.
Rescue Squad Certification:
In March of 2021, the chief officers recommended to the Board of Directors that we begin the process of becoming Light Rescue certified with the state. The initial estimated cost of the additional required equipment was approximately $15,000. We financed most of this with state and federal grants costing our service district property tax payers very little. The major hurdles were training and certifying eight members in technical rescue along with finding space on our current apparatus to store the needed equipment. In March 2021, the Board passed a motion to move forward with this endeavor with Deputy Chief Matt Martin leading the effort. With eight members either currently certified or committed to being certified by the end of the year, Deputy Chief Martin began the initial order of equipment. By the end of the year, we had enough members certified to move forward with changing our bylaws and charter to include response to emergency events as a light rescue certified department. The membership changed the bylaws in October of 2021 and the state approved the Charter change in January of 2022 for the department to officially provide light rescue services. In February of 2022, the Board approved replacing the existing Truck 1 with a new truck funded by matching grant money. This will alleviate many of the problems of apparatus storage space. In March of 2022, Lt. Glenn Lamb found a full-sized rescue vehicle for sale in Dover, NJ through the internet. Although it was on a 1997 International chassis, Pierce Corporation had built the rescue body that included not only plenty of space for rescue equipment but a command center, a cascade system for filling SCBA tanks at the scene, a telescopic scene-lighting system, and extra space to qualify as a fire service truck on our ISO rating inspection. With a private donation, we purchased the vehicle pending inspection – again with very little cost to the property tax payers of our service district. In late March of 2022, Chief Jonathan Sutphin and Lt. Glenn Lamb flew to NJ, inspected the vehicle, and drove it back to Westfield. After some minor work and re-lettering the vehicle, the Board approved the SOG changes necessary to officially place Rescue 1 in service in July 2022. We now have the certified manpower and equipment space to provide light rescue service with the hope of updating to medium rescue in the near future.
With the foresight of the past leadership of the department, the groundwork has been laid for us to continue to provide the highest
quality fire protection at a fiscally responsible cost to the taxpayer. Community volunteers still form the backbone of the department. With
the commitment of many hours each month from these citizen volunteers, our community is a much safer place.
Current members of the department include:
Senior Members: Jimmy Ashburn, T.J. Banks, Chris Beers, Tyler Brim, Jason Burkholder, Royce Clodfelter, Lee Edwards, Jimmy Harrison, Henry Key, Glenn Lamb, Jason Lawson, Matt A. Martin, Ben Norman, Kamron Nunn, Kevin Nunn, Bill Slyes, Jordan Smith, Phil Sutphin, Jonathan Sutphin, Troy Wilson, Alan Young, and Landon Martin.
Recruit Members: Kenneth Bartell and Dara Davis.
Junior Members: Lucas East and Zack Edwards.
Retired Members: Bernie Chilton, Grant
Christian, and Jack George.
Inactive Members: Seth Brim and Brandon Lowe.
Paid Staff: Matthew Hutchens.
Past to Present Fire Chiefs
"Charter Chief - Member"
Served 1 year as Chief
Served 15 years as Chief
Served 4 years as Chief
Served 4 years as Chief
Served 1 years as Chief
Served 1 years as Chief
Longest Serving Chief of 25 Years