Franconia Volunteer Fire Department was organized on April 12, 1934, as the sixth fire department established in Fairfax County, at a time when the county only had 25,000 residents (more than a million people call Fairfax County home today). The first apparatus, donated by Franconia resident Kathie Higham, was a Ford Model T station wagon that was outfitted with a water tank and a hose. Ms. Higham also allowed the firefighters to park that first vehicle in a shed on her property because we still did not have a fire station for the organization’s 56 volunteers.
In 1937, Arthur Thomas donated some land and our early volunteers dedicated time and talents to build the original Franconia firehouse on Franconia Road near Beulah Street, where the Franconia Government Center is located today. That building had two bays and room to park four vehicles, and the fledging but motivated fire company bought a 1937 International Pirsch – the department’s first purchased equipment – which remained in service until the early 1960s. The vehicle was fully restored in 1974 and continues to be a symbol of our proud volunteer heritage.
As Fairfax County grew with new bedroom communities during and after World War II, the original group of volunteer fire departments helped organize new stations. Franconia Volunteer Fire Department helped form Penn Daw Volunteer Fire Department (Station 11) in 1942, which became a fully independent volunteer fire company in 1945 and converted to a county facility in 1968. In the 1950s, we sponsored what is now known as Greater Springfield Volunteer Fire Department (Station 22). In 1996, Franconia supplied apparatus for the new county-built Kingstowne station (Station 37).
By the late 1940s, with 11 volunteer fire departments in the county, the Board of Supervisors approved hiring firefighters for each of the volunteer stations and approved the installation of a central fire alarm system. These “paid men” served primarily as daytime apparatus drivers, and volunteer fire chiefs would choose who would be hired by the county. Woodrow “Woodie” Smith started work as our first paid fireman at Franconia on July 1, 1949. Six years later, Franconia welcomed Jim Woodard as the department’s second career firefighter. Today, the station is staffed around the clock with a full complement of career personnel.
The first expansion of the original firehouse, which included building a new bay on each side of the station and adding a community room in the back, was completed in July 1951. But as the need for more space emerged, the fire department decided to buy a larger tract on Beulah Road, around the corner from the first firehouse and build a new station. The one-story, 14,700 square foot building, which opened in 1968 and remains the current home to the Franconia Volunteer Fire Department, has five bays, each large enough for two vehicles. In 1975, the west wall was expanded for a larger bunk room and kitchen. Six years later, a south side expansion increased the size of the bingo hall. In 2000, another expansion in the south side allowed the station to convert an old area for a separate bunk room for females.
For More Information:
The Franconia Museum featured a thorough history of the Franconia Volunteer Fire Department in its latest “Franconia Remembers” heritage book series, and it is available for purchase on their website at www.franconiamuseum.org.