Volunteer Spotlight: Virgil Rome
Name: Virgil Rome
Title: Past Chief/Department President
Department Name: Fredon Volunteer Fire Company
Location: Newton, NJ
Why are you an NVFC member?
I am an NVFC member because I am an ardent supporter of volunteerism and giving back to one’s community. I joined this organization in an effort to better myself and to also better my department. I am constantly seeking to learn and to pass that knowledge on. I consider every day to be a learning opportunity and the NVFC opens doors for information gathering, as well as information sharing.
What is your occupation?
County Fire Marshal
Why are you a volunteer firefighter, EMT, or rescue provider?
I came from a family in which the fire service was a big part, and I was raised with solid family values and a sense of pride and purpose. We learned to help others, make personal sacrifices and to give back to others. I always felt that I was fit and able-bodied and the least I could do was help my neighbors when they were need.
I was the first in my family to go to college and had a 30 year career as a law enforcement professional. Unfortunately, the agency I worked for prohibited employees from joining volunteer first responder agencies, and I was unable to do so. Despite the prohibition, my work always had me working with and next to the volunteers, and I continued to have respect for them. When I changed employers, one of the first things I did was contact my town’s fire company and inquire about signing up. I have not regretted this decision for a second. I have progressed through the officer ranks within my department and served as chief for four years.
What year did you join the fire or emergency services?
What are your memorable moments as a firefighter or EMS provider?
My memorable moments include the very first day I walked into the firehouse, wanting to help but frightened of what may lay in front of me. Meeting all new people who have now become my closest friends. Wondering if I could separate and meld my paid law enforcement background with the unpaid volunteer agency way of life.
Next, the sense of pride I felt when as one of the oldest students, I graduated from the firefighter training academy, recognizing that the other students could be my children and that firefighters that were my age were backing down on their careers and volunteerism (handing it over to the kids) while I was just diving in.
I have participated in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5k run in New York City in memory of those that lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and being a part of this event has incredibly impacted me.
Finally, the sense of pride when making a successful stop, saving someone’s property or simply doing a good deed for someone.
What contributions have you (and your department) made in your community?
The Fredon Volunteer Fire Company plays a huge role in my community. Fredon Township is very small (17 square miles) and has only about 3,000 residents. It is located about 65 miles northwest of New York City. Being a small community, most people know each other and fire company activities become events. Our department tries to positively engage the community by hosting breakfasts and dinners, supporting the local recreation committee and stepping up to assist anyone in need.
Our annual highlights are breakfasts with the Easter Bunny and Santa, and gift deliveries. We engage the young students with school fire prevention programs and firehouse tours. We have also, like many other departments, initiated a cadet program to try to recruit young future firefighters. I am currently leading a project to create a first responder memorial in my county, and this effort has inspired an incredible sense of pride.
Interested in serving your community? Find volunteer fire service opportunities at www.MakeMeAFirefighter.org.