By Ike Parrish
Current and former members of the Lake of the Woods Volunteer Fire & Rescue (LOWVFR) Company and their families gathered on Saturday, Aug. 28 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of service to their community.
The event was held at the Lake of the Woods Community Center. Folks gathered to enjoy a catered barbeque dinner and commemorate the courageous volunteer firefighters and squad members of both past and present.
Picture displays, organized by each decade, exhibited the decades of public service. First responders signed their name on a timeline chart showcasing the year they joined the organization.
The LOWVFR Company was founded on Aug. 23, 1971. Starting with only eight members, LOWVFR is now comprised of approximately 40 members who serve as first responders to an area of more than 26 square miles spanning from the Culpeper County line to the Spotsylvania County line and as far south as Zoar Road and Route 611.
At its founding, the company was comprised of just one fire engine, a 32-year-old truck that had been rebuilt, and one ambulance—a 1969 station wagon with rescue equipment installed in it.
They assist in calls in surrounding counties and even sent several units to aid the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. Additionally, the LOWVFR Company contributes support at the Marine Corps Marathon and various events throughout the area. They are the last remaining rescue squad in Orange County comprised of solely volunteer members.
Last year, LOWVFR answered 681 calls.
Mike Cianci, fire chief and U.S. Navy veteran, has been involved in fire fighting since he was 14 years old. He began working with the LOWVFR Company in May of 2007. Cianci described the job of fire chief as a “manager of chaos,” with the biggest challenge being the task of directing roughly 40 individual personalities to work together as a smoothly operating team. He said he embraces the challenge and loves serving the community as a career firefighter.
“The camaraderie is amazing. Anywhere in the world you go you know where you belong because of this fellowship,” he said.
The Lake of the Woods Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company is community-driven. Members visit local churches and make appearances at local schools to provide on-site education in fire safety. The company hosts annual banquets and Fourth of July cookouts and transports Santa Claus through the LOW neighborhood during the Christmas season.
“We’re a department of family, and that’s what this [event] is,” said Ryan Harvey, chair of the LOWVFR Company 50th anniversary.
Those interested in volunteering and supporting the LOWVF, or learning more about its history, is encouraged to visit www.lowfr29.com.