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Ashburn firefighter chronicles Loudoun history
By Elizabeth Coe   - 07/17/2007

Loudoun Times-Mirror

More Info on This Book: Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Apparatus History

Ever since he can remember, Ashburn volunteer firefighter Mike Sanders has had a fascination with firetrucks.

Some of his early memories of growing up in Vienna include chasing after fire engines on his bike, and when his neighbor, a volunteer firefighter, parked a firetruck in his driveway, the young Sanders was immediately drawn to it.

"I just fell in love," he said.

Sanders, who works full time in the insurance industry, spent years traveling around Virginia photographing the fire vehicles he loved so much. He took photos of all types of fire and rescue apparatus, from tanker trucks and ambulances to ladder and tiller trucks.

In 1999, he became a volunteer firefighter with the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department, and he now serves as a driver operator there.

"I love it. I absolutely love it," he said. "Being able to help the community. ... It's neat to combine it with my hobby."

Two years ago, Sanders decided to turn his hobby into a written history of Loudoun County with his book, "Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Apparatus History."

The book was published this month by Arcadia Publishing and is on sale at local bookstores, Barnes and Noble and www.amazon.com.

"I wanted to capture the history in Loudoun County," Sanders said. "I felt it was the right time. The departments are getting old, and there has been so much change."

While working on the book, he traveled around the county, visiting each of the 17 fire departments to learn as much as he could about the vehicles used there over time.
Sanders' book shows photos and contains information about each station's trucks, from the early ones to those used now.

The county's oldest fire department is the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company, originally called the Leesburg Star Fire Company in the 1820s.

One bylaw in Leesburg from 1925 stated that the "driver was to slow down to 15 mph when seeing a member to allow him to mount the engine. Under no condition was he allowed to come to a complete stop."

Sanders said he learned many interesting facts through his book research.

For example, old fire and rescue vehicles often had nicknames such as "Elizabeth," a 1968 military truck used by the Lovettsville station, and the "Silver Ghost," a 1953 military truck used by the Loudoun County Rescue Squad's communications and disaster unit.

The "Silver Ghost" received the name after it served as a body-removal unit in the 1974 TWA plane crash near Mount Weather.

A particularly unusual photo in the book shows a tiller truck purchased in the 1980s by the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company parked in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
After being sold to Baltimore City, the truck was purchased by a collector from France, where it was photographed.

The Ashburn fire department, where Sanders works Thursday nights and some Saturday shifts, was formed in 1944 after a local house fire killed several children.

"The people probably felt so frustrated because the kids were killed, and they didn't have a fire service," Sanders said. "It often takes something like that to get it going."
There are 17 fire and rescue units in the county today, but the book outlines apparatus histories from 19 of them. Some towns have had more than one station over time and some are no longer in operation.

Fire and rescue units included in the book are from Aldie, Arcola, Ashburn, Hamilton, Leesburg, Lovettsville, Lucketts, Middleburg, Neersville, Philomont, Purcellville, Round Hill and Sterling.

Chapters on the Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad Company, the Loudoun County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management and the Xerox Fire Brigade Company are also featured.

"If I hadn't done this, I'd kick myself years down the road because a lot of this information would be lost," Sanders said.

"It's neat to put together a history of fire departments that be shared for years to come."

Buy It Now: Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Apparatus History $19.99

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