Jerry Briggs Has Long Career as Wileyville Fire Chief
Located about 15 miles East of New Martinsville along Mountaineer Highway Route 7, you will enter a quiet, small town made up of a close-knit community. Wileyville has a small grocery store, and located on a hill behind the Church of Christ, is the Wileyville Volunteer Fire Department ready to serve the residents.
The Wileyville Fire Department has 15 volunteer members, with Jerry Briggs serving as Fire Chief for the last 43 years and firefighting for 46 years. Briggs will be the first person to tell you that if not for a combined effort of all the members and residents they would not have a Fire Department.
Briggs said, “I don’t feel like the spotlight should be only on me as Chief, because without the members we have and the great community we live in, I would not be here, and neither would this department. Wileyville is more than just a small town in WV, it is a wonderful place to live. We are all family here!”
Briggs’ interest in firefighting began at a young age when his father, Tom Briggs, was Fire Warden. He chuckled, when speaking of his father loading all the local boys in his Volkswagen Beetle and rush to the brush fires. Some of those boys are still active members today. “Our first meetings were held in my father’s grocery store in Wileyville,” stated Briggs.
The Fire Department was started by Harold Lancaster and the Wetzel County Commission in 1974. The founding members included Harold Lancaster, Jerry Briggs, Carl Kernan, French Cozart, Harry Richard Kernan, Larry Dent, and Ronnie Dulaney, all whom donated money to rent the current building from the Wetzel County Board of Education to have a place to conduct the meetings.
The original charter was officially signed in February of 1975 and the Wileyville Volunteer Fire Department was born. Melvin Morris, Jr., was elected the first chief in 1975 and Briggs took over as Chief in 1977.
Briggs said, “Our first firetruck was an old 1952 GMC Army 6×6 that we reconstructed into a fire engine. Today we have a 1991 GMC pumper, 2006 Smeal pumper, 2019 Pierce 2100-gallon tanker, and a 2012 Pierce Rescue truck. All of this is possible thanks to our community support at our fundraisers and the Wetzel County Commission.”
He stated that meetings and events are still held in the old three-room Wileyville School building and the old gymnasium is used as a storage facility. In 1997, a new two-bay garage was built to house all four of the department’s trucks.
Briggs’ past training dates to 1975 and includes Firefighter 1, 2, & 3, Fire Officer 1 & 2, Hazmat, Incident Command, First Aid, CPR, Pump Operation, and many more.
Briggs worked for Dominion Gas in Hastings, WV and retired with 34 years service. He is the father of two sons, Matt Briggs of Pine Grove and Aaron Briggs of Wileyville.
Larry Dent serves as 1st Assistant Fire Chief and Mark Huggins is 2nd Assistant Fire Chief. Rita Wood, secretary and EMT Serena Huggins are also among the selfless volunteers that make up the fire department.
Chief Briggs says he is lucky to have many good volunteers but is always looking for more people to carry on after they are gone because many are getting up in years!
The Chief is also proud of the Insurance Service Office rating the Fire Department has earned to help residents lower their homeowner’s insurance rates. He explained that if a town has a Fire Department, they are usually rated 10, but the Wileyville Fire Department is rated considerably lower, which helps homeowner’s rates drop. The lower the ISO rating the better. He attributes the Grandview Doolin PSD for supplying water to their town and the purchase of the 2019 Pierce 2100-gallon tanker for the lower rating.