When the Lynchburg Fire Department (LFD) was established in May of 1883, there was no Fire Administration as we know it today. In these days the Fire Department was “managed” by a Board of Fire Commissioners and a “Chief Engineer.” The Board of Fire Commissioners consisted of one member from each of the three wards in the city. These original commissioners were J.T. Williams (Ward 2), G.E. Heald (Ward 3), and T.N. Davis (Ward 1).
Originally known as the “Chief Engineer,” the first Fire Chief for the LFD was Alexander Thurman. Chief Thurman, who was a Lynchburg native, was a veteran of the Civil War and a local businessman. At the time of his appointment, Chief Thurman was required to reside at the firehouse seven days a week. Following his “retirement” in 1900, Chief Thurman was succeeded by Chief W.L. Sandidge.
Chief Sandidge remained in office until his death in 1927. During his tenure, Chief Sandidge is credited with replacing all of the horse-drawn fire apparatus with all new motorized apparatus. Interestingly enough, the first piece of motorized apparatus purchased for the Fire Department was a 1913 Hudson touring car purchased at Aperson and Lee Motor Company for $1,600. This vehicle was used by the chief and was his pride and joy. Also during the tenure of Chief Sandidge, Station 6 in Fort Hill and Station 5 in Rivermont were built and their respective engines put in service.
Following the death of Chief Sandidge in 1927, L.B. Rapp became the third chief of the Lynchburg Fire Department. Lewis B. Rapp was born on November 14, 1864 and was appointed to the position of Private in the Lynchburg Fire Department on October 6, 1891. In 1903, Chief Rapp was promoted the rank of Engineer and made the rank of Captain two years later in 1905. Following the sudden death of Chief Sandidge in May of 1927, on June 27, 1927, Captain Rapp was promoted to Acting Chief of the Lynchburg Fire Department with the appointment becoming permanent on January 1, 1928. During his tenure, Chief Rapp is most notably remembered for introducing the two-shift work schedule on January 1, 1937. Following his retirement on January 1, 1940, Chief Rapp died on May 8, 1940 from complications related to diabetes.
Born on June 26, 1903, Marvin K. Evans was appointed to the position of Private by Lynchburg Fire Department on May 1, 1925. On October 12, 1927, Private Evans was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and was assigned the job of driver for Chief Rapp. Lieutenant Evans would remain in this position until he was reassigned to Lieutenant of Engine Company 3 in November 1937. Following the retirement of Chief Rapp, Lieutenant Evans was promoted to the rank of Acting Chief of the department on January 1, 1940 and was named Chief on April 1st of the same year. During his tenure, Chief Evans replaced Stations 2 and 3. Chief Evans retired from the Lynchburg Fire Department on September 30, 1970 and passed away in 2001.
Following the retirement of Chief Evans, Woodrow W. Jennings was promoted to Chief of the department. Born in November of 1916, Chief Jennings was appointed to the position of Temporary Private on March 21, 1942. After being inducted into the U.S.Navy in June of 1943, Chief Jennings returned to duty as a Temporary Private on March 2, 1942 and was made a regular private in July of that same year. Following the retirement of Captain V.T. Bryant in 1966, Chief Jennings was promoted to the rank of company Captain and was again promoted in October of 1967 to Assistant Chief. Following the retirement of Chief Evans, Assistant Chief Jennings was promoted to Chief of the department on October 1, 1970.
During the tenure of Chief Jennings the department remained very stable without many changes in operational philosophy.