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Monday, June 26, 2017

Phone: 757-890-3600   TDD: 757-890-3621 

Information for Firefighters


The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety is proud of the rich history and traditions that serve as the foundation upon which today's modern fire and rescue departments build themselves and their service delivery. As such, we also understand the distinct bond that all firefighters share worldwide. It is this rich history and unique bond shared by members of the fire and rescue community that led to the development of this "For Firefighters" page. Here, you will find information about fire service history and our department that is typically of interest to members of the fire and rescue community.

We are a modern suburban combination fire and rescue department which provides ALS transport. We operate six engine companies (including one rescue pumper), two ladder companies, two medium duty rescues (ladder tenders), six ALS medic units, and incorporate multiple special apparatus including tankers (water tenders), marine vessels, and brush units out of six strategically located fire stations. Our ladders, rescues, and rescue pumper each carry a compliment of extrication equipment and members of those companies are trained in heavy vehicle rescue and extrication.

Department members not only perform the standard "bread and butter" operations daily, but also serve on various special operations teams including Hazardous Materials, Technical Rescue/Dive Rescue, Maritime Incident Response and Metropolitan Medical Response. Many of these members serve and also hold leadership positions on the Virginia -1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team or Virginia Task Force II - Urban Search and Rescue Team.

Our members work 24-hour shifts and are assigned to one of three platoons. The three platoon system allows our department to operate effectively and efficiently while maintaining minimum staffing levels on a 5/6 work schedule.

We provide prevention and protection to more than 69,000 residents inhabiting more than 23,000 households within 108 square miles that includes more than 200 miles of shore/coastline. We also protect the battlefields and surrounding historic structures where the decisive battle that led to the surrender of British troops to bring about an end to the American Revolution in 1781 occurred in Yorktown.

In addition to protecting Yorktown - "Where Independence was Won," we serve a diverse community that is comprised of industrial, commercial, mercantile, and residential construction. Our residential construction, like many other communities, is comprised of one and two family dwellings, multi-residential dwellings, gated communities, and large square footage "mini-mansions."

Our members also work side-by-side our neighboring jurisdictions and military counterparts through the provision of mutual and automatic aid responses as well as regional training opportunities.

Firefighters often have hobbies that are unique to job. Some of those include collecting firefighting memorabilia, patches, etc. This often leads to requests for department shirts, hats, and patches. For various reasons, we do not typically provide these items for trade. However, we are pleased to provide you with an electronic patch, as we know that this hobby has grown in popularity as well. If there are special circumstances surrounding a request please make your request, in writing to Fire Chief, Stephen P. Kopczynski and mail to P.O. Box 532, Yorktown, Virginia 23690.

History of the Maltese Cross

History of the Dalmatian in the Fire Service

Firefighting in Colonial America

History of Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

Virginia EMS Historical Highlights

Maltese Cross

The eight-point Maltese Cross is the international symbol of the fire service's willingness to make great sacrifices in order to protect others from the ravages of fire. It is a badge of courage and honor and its story is one hundred years old.

This honored symbol originated with a group of eleventh century knights who were serving in a Jerusalem hospital. They became known as the Order of Knights Hospitaller and later became the Knights of St. John. This charitable organization cared for the ill with great compassion.

Later they assisted the Knights of Crusaders in their effort to win back the Holy Land. As the Knights of St. John and Knights of Crusaders attacked the city walls, the Saracens first threw glass bombs containing highly flammable liquids and then flaming torches. Many knights were severely burned, some suffering agonizing deaths. Risking horrible death, those knights who were able, struggled desperately to help their burning comrades, beating out the flames and dragging them to safety. In acknowledgment of their heroic deeds of rescuing fellow knights and fighting fires, the cross which they wore was decorated and inscribed.

In 1530, the Island of Malta was given to the courageous knights. The symbol on their flag, the eight-point cross, became known as the "Maltese Cross." The cross, which had originally helped the knights distinguish between friend and foe, became the ultimate symbol of heroism and service. The cross, which is considered sacred, represents the principles of charity, loyalty, chivalry, gallantry, generosity to friend and foe, protection of the weak and dexterity in service.

Today, many fire departments have incorporated the Maltese Cross into their uniform, patch, department seal, or in other ways to symbolize their willingness to risk their lives to save others. 

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Dalmatians in the Fire Service

How did that spotty black and white dog known as a Dalmatian come to be associated with fire fighting? Dalmatians have been around for about 600 years. So, to understand how the Dalmatian became the number-one firehouse mascot in England and the United States, we must take a long look back in history.

The exact time and location of the dog's origin are unknown. However, because Dalmatians appear in an Italian wall painting dated about 1360 A.D. and because these spotted dogs were named after dalmatia, an Adriatic coastal region, one may assume that they originated somewhere in this area. But, it wasn't until 1780 when the name "Dalmatian" was used in the English language.

Weighing 25 to 55 pounds and standing 19 to 23 inches high, the Dalmatian was the perfect size to serve as a coach dog. (In fact, in Great Britain, dalmatians are still nicknamed "English coach dogs" and "plum pudding dogs.")

The Dalmatian is a very physical breed, with a strong, muscular body, and able to run great distances without tiring.  The Dalmatian also has what seems to be a natural calming effect on horses. This trait about the breed was seen very early on, and soon the Dalmatian was identified with horses. Possibly horse mounted warriors or hunters first used the breed in their activities. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries when the mode of travel was by horse or by carriage, the Dalmatians became a society dog, and trained to run along side women's carriages. They became known as Coach dogs or Ladies dogs because of this. In fact, the term coaching is referring to how the Dalmatian will take up position just
off the side and towards the rear of a horse and run with them.

In the 1700's, Dalmatians were used to protect horses that pulled English stagecoaches. Typically two Dalmatians would run next to the horses as they pulled the coach. When other dogs tried to run out and scare the horses, the dalmatian team would chase them away. Over the years, dalmatians formed a close bond with horses. During this time, horse theft was very common. Because of the potential for theft, stagecoach drivers would typically sleep in a hammock strung between two stalls where they would watch for thieves. However, because of the bond between the Dalmatians and the horses, the driver could sleep in a hotel or house if he owned a Dalmatian. Why? Because the Dalmatians would sleep with the horses and guard against horse theft.

It is during the era of horse-drawn fire apparatus that the Dalmatian became forever tied to the Fire Service. These fire house horses were required to spend hours at a time at a fire scene, or hours inside the fire house waiting for a call, and despite many misbeliefs, these fire house horses were not broken down old hags, but fine spirited horses. The Dalmatian became the horses pet, as it were, to help keep them calm. There are many reports and stories of seeing a fire team rushing to the scene of a call, with a Dalmatian or two running between the horse teams.

Once on the scene of the call, the Dalmatian took over as guard dog, insuring that nothing was stolen from the apparatus. The Dalmatian is a very loyal breed to its owners, and an admirable foe when challenged. Because of the dog/horse bond, the Dalmatian easily adapted to the firehouse in the days of horse-drawn fire wagons. Since every firehouse had a set of fast horses to pull the pumper, it became common for each group of firefighters to keep a dalmatian in the firehouse to guard the firehouse and horses. When the alarm came in, the Dalmatian led the way for the horse-drawn pumper. In this way, the Dalmatian became the firefighters' companion and a symbol of the fire service. Today, Dalmatians are still found in many firehouses in England, Canada, and the United States.

Because of this loyalty, the Dalmatian continued in the Fire Service once the horses were replaced with mechanical apparatus. Today, in many large cities, the Dalmatian is the guard dog of the fire truck while at the scene of fires and rescues. In its long history in the Fire Service, there are also reports of how the Dalmatian has rescued trapped firefighters or victims. Overall, the Dalmatian is a brave and valiant dog.

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Firefighting in Colonial America

By Paul Hashagen - Firehouse® contributing editor

The history of firefighting in America can be traced all the way back to Jamestown, VA, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Founded in 1607 by colonists from the London Company, Jamestown was under the command of Captain James Smith. It did not take long for fire to begin taking its toll on the new settlers.

In January 1608, a devastating fire destroyed most of the colonists' provisions and lodgings. Smith made a concise assessment of the situation: "I begin to think that it is safer for me to dwell in the wild Indian country than in this stockade, where fools accidentally discharge their muskets and others burn down their homes at night."

Three hundred ninety years later, Smith's read on America's safety issues is not that much different than today's. Our headlines still feature the same two elements – fire and guns.

The population of the New World continued to rise as shiploads of immigrants stepped ashore looking for a fresh start in a new land. Cities began to take shape, and the problems Smith found in the small stockade multiplied as more and more structures were added. The fire load in these cities increased as forests were cleared and wooden homes and buildings were constructed.

The communities that sprang up around three of the best harbors – Boston, New York and Philadelphia – soon faced a number of social problems involving housing, sanitation, water supply and the danger of fire. These three cities, and the firefighters who eventually stepped forward to protect them, set the course early on as to the direction and shape the American Fire Service would take.

In 1648, New Amsterdam (later New York) Governor Peter Stuyvesant stood firmly on his peg leg and appointed four men to act as fire wardens. They were empowered to inspect all chimneys and to fine any violators of the rules. The city burghers later appointed eight prominent citizens to the "Rattle Watch" – these men volunteered to patrol the streets at night carrying large wooden rattles. If a fire was seen, the men spun the rattles, then directed the responding citizens to form bucket brigades. This is generally recognized as the first step in organized firefighting in America.

Even earlier, Boston's city fathers took the first steps in fire prevention when Governor John Winthrop outlawed wooden chimneys and thatched roofs in 1631. Forty years later, Boston suffered a series of arson fires and finally a conflagration in 1676. The small "engine" built by local ironmaker Joseph Jynks, probably a syringe-type pump, had little effect on the swelling wall of flames. Shortly after the fire, Bostonians sent for the "state of the art fire engine" then being made in England. The three-foot-long, 18-inch-wide wooden box arrived with carrying handles and a direct-force pump that fed a small hose. The tub-like section of the engine was kept filled with water by a bucket brigade.

The need to coordinate these efforts brought about the establishment of the first engine company in colonial America. Twelve men and a captain were "hired" by the General Court to care for and manage the engine and to be paid for their work. On Jan. 27, 1678, this company went into service. Its captain (foreman), Thomas Atkins, was actually the first firefighting officer in the country.

Two Newsham engines arrived in New York in December 1732. Jacob Turck was appointed to take charge of the engines and to keep them in repair at his own cost after a 10-pound salary was advanced him. Turck also worked on a pump of his own design, perhaps the first mechanical fire pumper built in America.

Most notable among the famous Americans who helped shape the country and the Fire Service was Benjamin Franklin, a writer, printer, philosopher, scientist, statesman of the American Revolution – and a fireman. Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, served as a diplomat, and invented items that ranged from lightning rods to bifocal eyeglasses. In 1736, Franklin founded the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia, which became the standard for volunteer fire company organization.

Two important "tools" utilized by early American firemen were the bed key and salvage bags. With firefighting apparatus able to supply only a small stream of water, a fire that began to gain any headway was soon out of control. Arriving firemen quite often opted for immediate salvage efforts in the fire building and surrounding exposures. The bed key was a small metal tool that allowed the men to quickly disassemble the wooden frame of a bed, quite often the most valuable item owned by a family, and remove it to safety. Other household goods of any value were snatched up, placed in salvage bags and carried to safety.

The first attempt at fire insurance went bust after a devastating fire in Charlestown, MA, in 1736. Ben Franklin then organized the "Philadelphia Contributorship" to insure houses from loss by fire in 1740, a venture that was a success. The company adopted "fire marks" to be affixed to the front of the insured's property for easy identification.

With rules to provide for buckets, hooks, ladders and the formation of volunteer companies, firefighting started to become formalized. The chain of command fell in place as officers of various ranks were established. Firemen devised new and better ways to accomplish their mission; everything from helmets to hoses were invented or improved. Firemen in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and other cities made major advances in the technology and theory of firefighting.

The legacy of colonial firefighters can still be seen in fire department operations and organization across the country to this day. The wooden hydrants are gone but the iron willed determination of American firefighters is as strong as ever.

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History of Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

EMS in America can be traced back to the Civil War era. All military personnel had to be examined by medical officers to qualify for duty. Also, ambulances were assigned based on the size of the regiment. Each ambulance team was trained in patient care to better take care of the soldiers. In 1865 Cincinnati incorporated the first civilian ambulance. Then, in 1869, New York City advertised a 30 second response time and provided an Ambulance Surgeon and a quart of brandy for their patients!

During World War I, signal boxes were used by injured soldiers to assist medical teams in locating them in the field of battle. Medical teams also used electric, steam, and gasoline powered carriages for transporting the injured. It was also the first war to utilize traction splints and other medical equipment.  After the war, the transition to what we know as the modern day EMS started during the 1950's as an off shoot of 5 different types of businesses; towing operators, medical equipment companies, funeral homes, hospitals, and police/ fire departments. After many years of being unregulated, funeral homes began patient care and provided nearly half of the country's ambulances. Sometimes it was the local police department that provided medical care. Often, the local fire department would "rescue" a patient from a car accident or other trauma and then convey them to the hospital. Medical doctors made house calls for many of the same situations that EMS commonly responds to today. While providers did the best that they could with what little training and support they had, in most cases, ambulances were inappropriately designed, ill-equipped, and staffed with inadequately trained personnel.

In 1960, President John F. Kennedy declared that "Traffic accidents constitute one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest, of the nation's public health problems." It was not until 1965 that the direction of EMS throughout the United States had the potential to improve. A publication of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) titled “Accidental Death and Disability: the Neglected Diseases of Modern Society.” was released and began to receive attention. That paper reported that in 1965, 52 million accidental injuries killed 107,000 Americans, temporarily disabled more than 10 million and permanently impaired 400,000 more at a cost of approximately $18 billion. Accidental injury is “the neglected epidemic of modern society” and “the nation’s most important environmental health problem,” the paper concluded.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson and President's Commission on Highway Safety/National Academy of Sciences declares the carnage "the neglected disease of modern society." Soon after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Act was adopted which standardized EMS training, promoted state involvement, encouraged community oversight, recommended radio communication, and stressed a single emergency number.

In 1971, the television program “Emergency!” appeared, catching the attention of the country. The program suggested to the public that paramedics existed everywhere. In reality, they did not. Additionally, it portrayed paramedics as frequent lifesavers when they were part of an integrated EMS system. In reality, they did save lives, though not as often as the television show led views to believe. Still "Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto" came into America's living rooms every Saturday night to provide a first-hand look at what EMS was all about. The television show is credited with helping many areas of the country create new EMS programs in their local communities.

1973 brought about the EMS Systems Act. The Department of Transportation adapted training curricula for EMT, EMT Paramedic, and first responder. Public Law 93-154 established new rules for EMS radio communications. General Services Administration also introduced ambulance specifications.

The next step came in 1981 with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act which consolidated funding into state preventive health block grants, eliminated funding under EMSS Act, reduced compliance with federal guidelines, and lastly, abolished the federal lead agency.

As EMS continued to progress, local and regional EMS services began working on their own to make improvements in their level of care. State and national publications, conventions and organizations were solidly in place and helping to push EMS along as a component of the healthcare team. In 1985, the National Research Council’s report entitled Injury in America: A Continuing Public Health Problem described deficiencies in the progress of addressing the problem of accidental death and disability. Development of trauma care systems became a renewed focus of attention with passage of the Trauma Care Systems Planning and Development Act of 1990. The concept of a trauma system is to address the needs of all injured patients and match them to the available resources. The act encouraged the establishment of inclusive trauma systems and called for the development of a model trauma care system plan, which was completed nationally in 1992.

In 1996 the EMS Agenda for the Future was drafted, which further connected EMS with the other medical professions. That same year, the EMS Education Agenda for the Future was drafted, which provided recommendations for Core content, Scope of practice and Certification of EMS professionals.

As a relative new-comer when compared to other emergency services such as fire or police departments, EMS has traveled a long way in a relatively short period of time. It has been nearly four decades since President Lyndon Johnson's Committee on Highway Traffic Safety recommended the creation of a national certification agency to establish uniform standards for training and examination of personnel active in the delivery of emergency ambulance service. 

Since that time, pre-hospital emergency medical care has continually evolved and improved. The EMT has been acknowledged as a bonafide member of the health care team. Excellent training programs have been developed and a vital focus has been placed on continuing education. National standards have been established. Ambulance equipment essentials have been set. National accreditation of paramedic programs has been achieved, and professional associations for the EMT have been organized.

EMS today is still very much a work in progress. Changes continue to be made on almost annually, designed to improve the care that is provided and the quality of EMS delivered throughout York County and the Commonwealth of Virginia. At any given time, there are multiple projects underway that may serve to improve and enhance national, regional, and local EMS delivery.

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Virginia EMS Historical Highlights: (Source: Virginia Office of EMS)

  • 1928 The first independent volunteer rescue squad in the country, Roanoke Lifesaving and First Aid Crew, was established in Roanoke, Va.
  • 1968 State involvement in emergency medical services (EMS) began with the passage of the Virginia Ambulance Law, which called for the development and enforcement of standards for all ambulance services, whether volunteer, commercial or municipal.
  • The Bureau of Emergency Medical Services was established within the Department of Health.
  • 1969 The first Rules and Regulations Governing Ambulance Services were promulgated.
  • 1971 The National Standard Curriculum for Emergency Medical Technicians was implemented in Virginia.
  • 1973 The first advanced life support personnel graduated as Cardiac Technicians in Virginia Beach, Va.
  • 1974 The Virginia General Assembly passed more comprehensive EMS systems legislation.
  • The State EMS Advisory Committee was expanded.
  • 1976 The first EMT-Paramedics were certified.
  • The EMT Instructor Trainer Program was initiated.
  • 1978 Virginia Rescue Squad Assistance Fund created by legislation. First grants awarded in June 1979.
  • Virginia’s Regional EMS Councils were formally recognized in the Code of Virginia.
  • 1980 First annual EMS Symposium held in Williamsburg, Va.
  • Regional EMS Councils designated by the State Board of Health.
  • 1981 Virginia's first air medical evacuation service was dedicated in Salem, Va.
  • Medical College of Virginia was first Level One Trauma Center designated by the state.
  • A federal block grant permits statewide funding for all EMS Regional Councils.
  • 1982 First Responder program initiated.
  • The first State EMS Plan is adopted.
  • 1983 This was a significant year for EMS with the passage of the "One For Life" legislation, adding a $1.00 fee on motor vehicle registration to support EMS.
  • Funding for Regional EMS Councils shifted from federal block grant to state funding.
  • Reimbursement initiated for instructors teaching approved EMT and First Responder classes.
  • 1985 Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Program for emergency services personnel initiated.
  • 1986 Governor’s EMS Awards initiated to recognize outstanding individuals and EMS a agencies.
  • 1987 Statewide Trauma Registry legislated for collecting data. The Office of EMS received approximately 50,000 records per year from hospitals and emergency departments.
  • Developed and adopted first State MEDEVAC plan for the Commonwealth.
  • 1988 Major efforts initiated to address wide-spread problem of recruitment and retention of qualified EMS personnel.
  • EMS Disaster Response Planning Report Completed.
  • 1989 EMS Advisory Board established the Medical Control Committee and the Office of EMS contracted part-time with a physician to serve as the State EMS Medical Director.
  • 1990 Two For Life legislation passed, which doubled to $2.00 the annual motor vehicle registration fee for EMS and made new programs possible.
  • Rules and Regulations Governing EMS revised to incorporate Guidelines and Procedures for BLS and ALS Training Programs.
  • First and only state sponsored satellite EMS training program initiated by the Office of EMS. Monthly broadcasts are available for viewing nationwide.
  • Computerized Continuing Education program initiated that allows providers innovative ways to earn recertification credits for attending a variety of training programs which include hospital rotations, magazine articles and videotapes.
  • 1991 Testing and continuing education records automated.
  • 1995 Virginia is one of the first states to adopt the new National Standard EMT-Basic Curriculum and instructor roll-out programs train over 500 EMT instructors in the use of this new program.
  • Poison Control Services tasked to Office of EMS.
  • 1996 Statewide Pre-Hospital and Inter-Hospital Trauma Triage Plan developed.
  • New National Standard Instructor Curriculum is implemented in Virginia to train new EMT instructors. It is based on policies and programs initially developed in Virginia.
  • EMS Advisory Board membership reorganized with reduction of membership from 37 to 24, elimination of Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Emergency Services representation, and addition of membership by the State Fire Chiefs’ Association of Virginia, Virginia Firefighters Association and Virginia Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • 1997 Virginia adopted a modified version of the new National Standard First Responder Curriculum that added skills including automated external defibrillation (AED) as a mandatory requirement at this certification level.
  • Recertification requirements for all certification levels were updated and Operational Medical Directors allowed to waive recertification testing for qualified EMS agency members under their supervision.
  • First Regional EMS Disaster Task Forces are operational.
  • 1998 New Continuing Education requirements for all EMS certification levels took effect on July 1, 1998.
  • 1999 A consolidated grants program was initiated that included all OEMS grants – Rescue Squad Assistance Fund, Recruitment and Retention Mini-Grants and ALS Training Grants.
  • AED registration program developed for non-licensed EMS organizations.
  • Regional Trauma Plans established statewide.
  • EMS Funding Task Forced formed by EMS Advisory Board Chairman.
  • The EMS Do Not Resuscitate Order was changed by the Virginia General Assembly and renamed the Durable DNR Order. New provisions eliminated the expiration date and the requirement to be terminally ill, and included minors.
  • EMS agencies were required to start submitting Pre-Hospital Patient Care Reports, starting July 1, 1999.
  • 2000 For the first time, an official definition of an ambulance was passed by the Virginia General Assembly. It is defined as a vehicle, vessel or aircraft that holds a valid permit from the Office of EMS.
  • Initiated extensive review of EMS Rules and Regulations for update in 2001, the first update since 1990.
  • Statewide collection of Pre-Hospital Patient Care Report data initiated.

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