VERONA — The Village of Verona will celebrate 100 years of having an established fire department on Sunday, Oct. 22.
Beginning at 2 p.m., the department will open its doors for an open house, so residents can meet the firefighters who protect the village on a day-to-day basis.
According to Fire Chief Raymond Rayburg, the department was in existence prior to 1917, but it was that year the department was “officially” started.
“The story is that a gentleman by the name of Jim Kenworthy wanted to join the group and when he walked in he asked who was in charge. At that time nobody was in charge. He said, ‘Somebody needs to be in charge, because the fire truck has a flat tire.’ And they said, ‘Sounds like you need to be the guy in charge.’ He was fire chief until 1971,” Rayburg said.
While he was not sure which Preble County fire department is the oldest, Rayburg did say Verona is one of the older.
In 100 years, the Verona Fire Department has only have seven fire chiefs. Kenworthy was chief for 46 years.
“Over the years we’ve responded to numerous calls in several counties,” Rayburg said. “Big fires and little fires alike. We sent a crew down to help with the tornado in Xenia and Arcanum. Xenia is the farthest we’ve been from station. I don’t think we’ve been any place else that is further from Xenia.”
“During the blizzard of 1978 we had guys out on snowmobiles, checking on the older folks around the area,” he continued. “We actually made arrangements with a dairy farmer to pick up milk and bring to people’s homes. We did transport a pregnant lady to the ambulance. We couldn’t get it to her, so they took her to it.”
“We did that with a guy having a heart attack. Yeah, we spent a lot of time down here,” Assistant Chief Dave Strawser added.
“Its always a privilege to serve the public. That is something we strive for, and we are here for them,” Rayburg said.
As for why the department chose to celebrate this birthday, Rayburg said, “A 100-year milestone is big in anyone’s book, in my opinion. I’m proud of this department.
“People should come out to see where their tax dollars are going. They can see why we need the monies we need and how it is spent and how it is cared for after we spend it. I’m quite proud of this equipment, but our oldest piece is 1986 and our newest piece is a 2001. However, when you look at them, they look brand new.”
“We try to take care of what is given to us and make it last as long as possible,” Rayburg said. “The guys do a lot of work on their own for things as well as the department. The building, the upstairs portion was added in 1970 with funds and manpower from our firefighters. The association put the funds up and the firefighters did all the work.”
The Verona Fire Department Open House will be held on Sunday, Oct. 22, from 2-5 p.m. There will be door prizes and attendees will be able to tour the station.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH