George Stephens has been the chief of the North Garden Volunteer Fire Company for 20 years, and a firefighter even longer. He joined the company as a young man after he watched firefighters struggling with inadequate tools and unreliable water resources try to salvage a house.
“Despite their heroic efforts, the house burned to the ground. It was the home of the custodian at my elementary school,” he said. “I realized I had just watched on the sidelines. That day I asked myself what I was doing to help and got involved.”
A lot has changed since he first volunteered. “Initially we only responded to fires, but over time we were responding to more car accidents,” he said. “We decided to get medical certifications because we wanted to do more for our residents than just hold their hand and comfort them until the ambulance arrived.”
Yearly calls have more than doubled since the early 1990s, from 300 to more than 800 in a typical year.