In this day and age of disposable everything; silverware, cameras, and even marriages, it’s a wonderful thing to honor a man who’s dedication and commitment to the Parsons’ Volunteer Fire Department has spanned decades. Charles Lloyd of Hambleton, a Parsons Volunteer Fire Department member since 1969 and Fire Chief since 1994 retired this past week.
Lloyd was born in Randolph County but his family moved to Tucker County when he was in fifth grade. His Father and Mother ran the Hambleton Grocery in Hambleton. Lloyd graduated from Parsons High School class of 1963. He married a local girl from Montrose, Theresa Carol, and they went on to have two children who both graduated from Tucker County. Son, Charles, is now a helicopter pilot ; Daughter, Tracie Lynn, lives in Cleveland, Ohop. Lloyd has been blessed with six grandchildren, four boys and two girls.
Throughout his life Lloyd has been a teacher, assistant principal and a principal for the Tucker County School System.
Lloyd served as volunteer fireman for the Parsons Department since 1969 and was thrust suddenly from Assistant Chief to Chief in 1994 by the death of Bernard Martin. He admitted that he didn’t feel quite prepared for the role but worked hard in learning the ropes. In his near twenty years as Chief and forty-four years on the department he has seen numerous changes, not just locally but with Volunteer Fire Departments everywhere.
“It has gotten more technical as far as equipment goes, and a lot more government regulations”, Lloyd said. “Far more sophisticated as far as training. Used to be, someone could walk in and say: ‘I want to be a fireman’ and you were one; now, they have to take a class of about 124 hours! To keep up with training exercises mandated by the State of West Virginia, it’s become very time consuming as far as equipment and training.”
Locally Lloyd has seen the department expand from a three engine bay to six doors and the addition of increasingly sophisticated equipment. With every mention of an achievement by the PVFD Lloyd is always careful to say: we. He re-iterated many times that it was group effort on the part of both the fire department and the community.
Over the years Lloyd has been in charge of responding to many of Parsons more notorious fires and emergency scenes. He recalled the two Kingsford fires, one with loss of warehouses, the other with the loss of the manufacturing facility. The Tannery building, the First Street fire where two buildings were lost, and the Moose Lodge fire where sadly two lives were lost, were all during his time as Chief. One of the most notorious events was the epic flood of 1985.
“We lost everything in the flood. We had to start rebuilding from scratch. The South Charleston Fire Department came with two trucks and said here you go! Without them we’d been out of business completely”, said Lloyd.
Another thing to change over the years has been the workforce shift. Many firemen now have to work their “real jobs” out of town and are thereby unavailable for daytime calls. That is why mutual aid has become so important amongst departments.
“It’s an unique brotherhood”, Lloyd said. “We had to call them in on several occasions. We have mutual aid agreements with: Davis, Thomas, Leading Creek, Mt. Grove, Elkins, and Canaan Valley. If we need them, they’re there for us, and if they need us, we’re there for them.”
Lloyd seemed proud of the fact that spread between all Tucker County Departments they have the equipment to handle about any fire/emergency situation that is likely to arise here.
“We’ve acquired unique equipment and it’s there for the whole county. We even have an air trailer with a generator “, (unique in its ability to go on site and fill the firefighter’s air tanks) said Lloyd.
P.V.F.D. has West Virginia’s only Snozzle, a fifty-five foot articulating boom with nozzle. Lloyd said his favorite piece of equipment is the 1956 American LaFrance, one of the first trucks Parsons ever bought new. The department still has it, although now it is used mostly for funeral corteges or parades.
In a field where you’re called out both day and night, anytime and any weather, a fireman’s family life often has to take a back seat.
“One fire occurred on Christmas morning, my kids weren’t even out of bed yet”, Lloyd said. As usual, he added, “Not just me but all firefighters face this.”
When you think of a typical small town firefighter, you might envision a Norman Rockwell-esque scene where the fireman is rescuing the kitten from the tree. When asked if he’d ever had to do this, Lloyd chuckled and said yes.
“We even had to get one out of couch springs, and rescue dogs across the river. The community is very appreciative of what we do for them. Anything they need they call us. They know they’re gonna get someone there (to help).”
Not all calls are quite so bucolic, however. In a small community inevitably a fireman will be called to respond to the house of a friend. When asked how this affected Lloyd he responded.
“Doesn’t make it any harder or easier, you have a job to do. Your training and expertise kicks in and then you live with it after.”
Though a firefighter may seem like a superhero when decked out in full gear, they are still after all, human. When asked if he ever got frightened, Lloyd answered.
“Yes. The first time you see a drowning victim, or pick someone out of a fire. It weighs on you. I had guys quit after certain calls. You gotta realize you’re getting them out of a situation no one else is gonna do it.”
Lloyd said that the local Ministerial Association helps by providing counseling for any fireman who may need it.
When asked what Lloyd would like to say to the next generation of firefighters, he wanted them “To remember that they’re there to protect the community. To not get discouraged with all the classes and regulations, and to do the best job they possibly can.”
Lloyd also wanted to thank the community for their support to the P.V.F.D. . “We hope and feel that we provided them good service over the years and hope to still be there for them as long as we can.”
Even though retiring at 68 years young, Lloyd plans on staying involved with the fire department. “I’ll be there to do what I can. I’m still gonna be a fireman- not quitting that. Time to pass it on to a younger person. I had to learn it from scratch (being Chief). I will be there to help him. Kevin White (new Chief) will do a great job!”
When asked what Chief Lloyd (ret.) planned to do with his golden years he responded: “Whatever my Wife finds for me to do. Right now, it’s putting up Christmas decorations!”
Chief Charles Lloyd, a grateful community says: Thank You.