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New fire engine dedicated in late firefighter’s memory

By Staff | Dec 21, 2012

After taking turns washing it down with a hose, more than a half-dozen members of the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department squatted down Sunday, gave it a good heave-ho and physically pushed their brand-new fire engine into the open bay doors of their fire station.

The ceremony is a time-honored tradition within the fire service that plays out across the country whenever a department obtains a new engine.

The 2012 Pierce Velocity Engine replaces the department’s old Engine 3, a 1989 Pierce Dash Engine that served the community of Shepherdstown and Jefferson County for more than two decades and responded to approximately 5,000 calls for service.

fSunday’s ceremony wasn’t just a chance to officially retire the department’s old engine, but also a time to dedicate the new engine in honor of the late Kenneth Shipley, who joined the department in 1935 at the age of 16 and served faithfully until his death in 1951 of a heart attack.

A number of Shipley’s children, as well as extended family members and relatives, were part of the ceremony and were given the honor of unveiling the marker affixed to the new engine dedicating it in the memory of Shipley.

“I think it’s a very nice thing they’ve done here. For a fire company that’s progressed like they have in a small community, they’ve got some real nice equipment. People around here ought to feel very good about that, and I think it was an honor they dedicated it to an older fella,” said Bob Shipley, one of Kenneth Shipley’s sons.

The department’s new Engine 3 has a 500 horsepower motor with a 2,000-gallon-per-minute water pump and a tank that holds 750 gallons of water. The engine carries about 3,000 feet of fire hose and can transport six firemen to the scene of an emergency in its state-of-the-art cabin.

“For two years we had a committee that worked on this engine. We talked about everything from the tires that are hitting the ground to the nozzle on the end of the hose. Quite a bit of work went into it,” Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department President Craig Simpson said.

The new engine costs more than $500,000, money that members helped to raise with the support of the local community.

“We believe that this fire truck will be a truck to serve Shepherdstown and the area for quite some time,” Simpson said.

Shepherdstown Fire Chief Ross Morgan told those who gathered for the dedication ceremony that it was time to add another page to the department’s history book. He said placing the new pieces of apparatus into service was not an easy task to complete. It required sound planning, and a dedicated committee was charged with turning the new engine into a reality. The committee included fire department members Andrew Arnold, Zac Morgan, Brian Fluharty, Simpson and Ron Kemp.

“It’s exciting because it’s a been a two-year process. Literally every nut and every bolt has been gone through using our projected community’s needs, and how we operate as a system is how this thing was built. It was really set up for quick, aggressive fire attack,” said Arnold, who chaired the department’s apparatus committee.

Ross Morgan also said the money needed for the engine required the willingness and dedication of the department and the community to raise it and to make sure the engine could be purchased.

“Our membership had the experience, the expertise and patience to build a fire engine, and we had the dedication to raise the funds to pay for it. Most importantly – and I cannot stress this enough how important this is – is the wonderful support we received from our community, both financially and through hands-on help. We cannot survive without them,” Ross Morgan said.

The dedication of the new engine in memory of a fellow firefighter is a new tradition that Morgan said will continue from this day forward. He said there were many names considered, but the one name everyone agreed on was Shipley’s.

“He was a faithful and dedicated fireman,” Ross Morgan said.

Shipley’s family was also very much involved in the fire service. His wife could be considered the first dispatcher in the Shepherdstown area, as she was the one that received word of an emergency and would alert the firemen at the department of the call. At the time, Shipley’s family lived in the department’s old fire hall.

“I was just a little one when we moved there. We had an apartment there. You didn’t have electric heat and my mother and he fired those old coal stoves back then. I could tell a whole story about it, but it was something else,” said Shipley’s oldest daughter, Velma. Shipley’s bother, C.W. “Cop” Shipley, served as fire chief of the department from 1937 to 1958. Another brother was a captain with the Martinsburg Fire Department. Shipley’s twin sons were also members of the fire department in the 1960s.

In February 1951, Shipley died suddenly and unexpectedly. Following an emergency call, he returned to work and began complaining of chest pains. He immediately went to a doctor, was treated and was sent home to rest where he suffered a second, fatal heart attack.

“I truly feel this fireman deserves this recognition,” Morgan said of the department’s decision to dedicate the engine in Shipley’s honor.