- Associated Press - Saturday, January 10, 2015

SHAWNEELAND, Va. (AP) - When rushing to a call, there is no guarantee that crews from North Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue will return unscathed - a well-known fact among the handful of families who serve at the station in western Frederick County.

“You want to let them go and get experience,” North Mountain Fire Chief Josh Taylor said. “But at the same time, you want to hold them back by the collar to make sure they go home to their family.”

Josh Taylor, 33, wife Cassidi, 36, stepson Caleb Belford, 17, along with his brother and sister-in-law, Matt and Courtney Taylor, volunteer at North Mountain fire station at 186 Rosenberger Lane - about 15 miles west of Winchester.

They are among seven family units of roughly 30 total volunteers at North Mountain.

“If one family member joins, others become interested,” Josh Taylor said. “It’s a good thing.”

Dede Wright, 38, an emergency medical technician and driver for North Mountain, said her husband, Wayne Wright, 41, and her two sons, Cody, 21, and Hunter, 18, volunteer at the station when needed.

She said the benefit of volunteering with her family is the extra time spent together and knowing she can rely on them.

“I know that no matter what, they’ll have my back,” she said.

She said son Hunter convinced her and the family to volunteer for North Mountain, and they joined two years ago.

“I think we’re all concerned for each other’s safety when we go on a call, but that’s the nature of what we do,” she said. “For my boys, I feel that way every time we get a fire call - that’s the mom in me wanting to protect them but I know they’ve had a lot of training. They’re smart boys and they wouldn’t do anything to put themselves in danger.”

Dede, who is a bus driver for Frederick County Public Schools, said Wayne and Cody were recently hired at the Loudoun County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management in Northern Virginia, and will begin training this month while still continuing to volunteer.

Josh and Matt Taylor are full-time firefighters for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and work three 24-hour shifts with a day off in between each shift, then have four days off.

When they’re not getting paid to work, they can be found at North Mountain fire station, not far from where they live.

Josh and Cassidi Taylor even held their wedding in the fire station’s social hall.

“This is your family away from family,” said Matt Taylor, 28, who is the assistant chief. “A lot of people use it as support where support from regular family may not be offered.”

The Taylors’ father, Jeff Taylor, was president at North Mountain, which was founded in 1973.

“I’ve been around a fire station since I was a baby,” Josh Taylor said. “Coming from a family of firefighters, upholding tradition is important.”

Matt Taylor said when the station first opened in 1974, it was big enough to house only one fire truck.

Now, there are five bays and a separate garage that hold two fire engines, two ambulances, one mini water pumper, a brush truck and two utility vehicles - not to mention a TV room where children of the volunteers can hang out.

“We have more people than we have space,” Matt Taylor said. “It’s a good problem to have. Almost every fire company in Frederick County has the issue of running out of room.”

Frederick County’s Fire and Rescue Department has 11 volunteer fire and rescue companies with about 200 volunteers, 85 uniformed career staff and seven office staff.

North Mountain has two paid staff members from the county’s fire and rescue department who work Monday through Friday.

Funding for the station comes from the county, donations and fundraisers, such as monthly pancake breakfasts and bake sales.

The Winchester Fire and Rescue Department has 66 career staff, three administrative staff, 21 volunteers in four volunteer stations. It also has 60 administrative volunteers who provide 24-hour fire protection and advanced medical life support service, according to the City of Winchester’s website.

Clarke County has three volunteer fire stations with 16 career staff, 80-100 volunteers, and one administrative staff member, Frank Davis, who is director of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

About 80 percent of the calls that North Mountain responds to are for emergency medical services, Josh Taylor said.

The station’s first response area measures 43 square miles in southwestern Frederick County, though he said they sometimes provide services to parts of West Virginia and can provide aid to the entire county.

The station responds to house or bush fires every three or four months, he said.

The minimum age to volunteer at North Mountain is 15, Josh Taylor said. At 16, volunteers can attend basic fire training or emergency medical services training academies, and take leadership and officer courses.

“We try to protect younger people as much as possible,” Josh Taylor said. “People here ensure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Belford, a senior at James Wood High School, said he wanted to join the fire department since he was little.

“I enjoy the family dynamic,” he said. “I like running calls, fighting fires … it’s a lot more rewarding than a paperwork job.”

He said he received probationary training when he was 15, and graduated from the Basic Fire Academy in Frederick County last spring.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said of responding to EMS and fire calls. “You have to be confident in your skills, and know the difference between confidence and competence.”

About 10 of the 30 volunteers at North Mountain are under the age of 20, Josh Taylor said.

Belford said three of his best friends also volunteer at the station.

“If I have kids, they’ll volunteer, too,” he said. “This is my first home.”


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