WOODSTOCK — Capt. Zach Hottel represents the spirit of the all-volunteer Woodstock Fire Department, which is about to commemorate its bicentennial.

Hottel is entering his 17th year of working with other members of the department to aid victims of fires, vehicular accidents, natural disasters and other tragedies.

“I’m a third-generation volunteer with the Woodstock Fire Department,” Hottel, who is the archivist at the Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg, said by phone on Thursday. “Many of our other volunteers also have strong family connections. If I show up to volunteer, I immediately see the impact I can have for people who are sometimes experiencing the worst day of their life.”

Volunteering with the fire department is “one of the best ways to have an impact on your neighbors and those around you,” he said.

The Woodstock Fire Department was founded on Feb. 8, 1823. It was formed after a massive fire almost destroyed the entire town in 1822, when structures were built mainly of wood.

“We’re one of the oldest fire departments in the state of Virginia, and the second oldest in the county: the oldest is the New Market Fire Rescue Department,” Hottel said.

The roots of the department in New Market go back to 1805, when the Union Fire Co. was established.

Members of the Woodstock Fire Department plan to celebrate its two centuries of service with a Bicentennial Birthday Bash at 4 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Woodstock Fire Station, 121 W. Court St.

The event will be open to the public. Attendees will be able to view the department’s 1942 Ford fire truck, a pumped-by-hand “hand engine” that dates to 1869, and historical photos. The celebration also will include a pipes and drums performance, fire department information, visits by special guests, a presentation of commemorative resolutions, and refreshments.

“Everyone is invited to attend,” Hottel said. “We have extended invitations to our fellow fire rescue organizations in the county and to some local, state and federal elected officials.”

Other bicentennial celebrations might occur later this year.

“We’re still in the planning process, but we’re also hoping to have a summer event to include a parade,” Hottel said.

And in the fall, the department would like to host an event to commemorate its current and past members, he said.

“The opportunity to celebrate the Woodstock Fire Department’s bicentennial anniversary this year is a testament to the strength of their organization and enduring commitment to our community,” Woodstock Town Manager Aaron Grisdale told The Northern Virginia Daily on Thursday. “Woodstock is fortunate to have this organization, comprised of community members and volunteers, that continue to rise to the occasion and assist our residents when they are most in need. We appreciate their ongoing professionalism, selfless service, and dedication to our community.”

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution recognizing the fire department’s bicentennial. Grisdale said the town of Woodstock’s commemorative resolution for the department will be presented at the Feb. 7 Town Council meeting.

The fire department currently has about 40 active members. Its “first due” area, or the area where it’s expected to show up first to a tragedy, encompasses the town of Woodstock and an overall region that totals about 70 square miles.

In addition, the department is one of 12 volunteer fire-rescue agencies that are part of the county fire-rescue service, Hottel said.

“We all work together as one system, so we regularly respond to all parts of Shenandoah County,” he said.

The nonprofit Woodstock Fire Department is mostly funded by donations and fundraisers, Hottel said. It also receives financial support from the town, county and state.

“We provide some town funding for annual operations and assist with some capital purchases,” Grisdale said.

For example, the town contributed some money toward the department’s new fire truck that was purchased last year, he said.

The fire department currently is accepting applications from individuals interested in serving as firefighters, auxiliary members “or anything in between,” department members said on the organization’s Facebook page.

All training for potential firefighters is provided free of charge. Applicants must be at least 16, live in the first due area and pass a background check.

The fire department encourages applicants to fill out a volunteer interest form on its website at http://woodstockfire12.com/. To learn more, contact the WFD at co12@shentel.net or 540-459-3242 or visit its Facebook page.

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