Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire Department (LJVFD) Chief, Walt Davis, is retiring after 24 years of service to the community.
Earlier this year, Davis decided to step down after 14 years as department chief so he could spend more time with his grandchildren and to focus on the last few years of his career before retiring. His replacement has not yet been decided upon as the fire department will be holding elections for the new chief in September.
Originally, Davis was going to leave and the end of spring, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the volunteer fire department’s board of directors asked him to remain. Davis answered the call to continue to serve.
Davis’ interest in his profession started as a young child
Seeing the engines, watching firemen put out blazes, and helping people all interested him. During his time as a student at Woodbridge High School, he had a number of friends who served in the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton (OWL) Volunteer Fire Department, something that heavily influenced him to become a firefighter, he told Potomac Local News.
When Davis moved to the Lake Jackson community, his wife Cathy joined the LJVFD auxiliary to support the fire department in fundraising. In 1995, a young woman lost her life that occurred in the community. A press conference was held afterward, and Davis went and listened to reporters being briefed on the incident.
After learning about those who answered the call, and being urged from his wife to serve, he agreed to join as a volunteer with LJVFD. With his newfound passion, he was able to get 20 other individuals to join as well.
After taking hours of classes and responding to calls for help from the community, he started to move up the ranks. He was named chief of the department in 2006.
Being the chief of a volunteer fire department is a multifaceted role that requires a large amount of dedication and commitment, Davis said. Not only do volunteer fire department chiefs have to oversee all the volunteer firefighters called to emergencies, but they also support the fundraising activities for the department and community events.
LJVFD hosts breakfast with Santa Claus each December that draws large crowds from the community. It also hosts several car shows which not only bring in revenue but also raise awareness for the department’s mission to serve the community.
Davis said that county residents are more aware of fire safety now than when he started 25 years ago. LJVFD hosts community events that educate residents about fire safety and sends volunteer firefighters to go into the schools to teach children about the job of a firefighter.
As the population in Prince William County continues to grow, Davis sees a challenge in recruiting new volunteers.
“Most families in Prince William County need dual incomes to live here, so most families have both parents working. On top of that, the requirements for training has gone up as firefighters take on more and more in the field. Lake Jackson is committed, though, to recruiting and continuing volunteering in Prince William County” said Davis.
LJVFD remains open to the retired military, career firefighters from surrounding jurisdictions, and other members of the community who want to volunteer close to home. Volunteers are asked to serve one night a week and one day every third weekend
As he spends his last few weeks as chief, he recalled many of the incidents that kept him busy all of these years, to include. house fires, car accidents, and a wide range of medical issues that now include a global pandemic.
“Through all the difficulties of serving as chief, riding on a rig to help someone always continues to bring me back to why I did this in the first place,” Davis said.
LJVFD is one of eight volunteer fire departments in Prince William County.