Alma Fire Chief Ron McCrobie
Alma Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ron McCrobie was born in Glen Dale, West Virginia to the late Bill and Lena McCrobie and spent his earliest years in Marshall and Ohio Counties, but by 5th grade his family had relocated to Alma, West Virginia. It has been in the comfortable little community of Alma where he has made his home for most of his life. Ron graduated from the old Tyler County High School and is the father of three grown children; a daughter, Lea 30 years; a son, Tyler 24 years and the youngest, a daughter Brandi who is 20.
Chief McCrobie was in a happy mood when we met. He had just received word that morning that his son, Tyler, had passed Fire Fighter 2 classification, a program that uses job performance requirements to measure knowledge and skills needed as a firefighter, and is focused on more specialized areas of fire fighting and command. Fire fighting skill and knowledge run deep in this hard working family.
Chief McCrobie has been involved in the fire business since 1990 and began his journey as a fire fighter in the New Martinsville station. At the time, he had several friends that were volunteer firemen, and their stories of emergency call outs and fire fighting were intriguing to Ron. It wasn’t long before his buddies took him to the station and got him signed up. The rest you could say is history.
Ron is employed by Momentive in Friendly, WV where he has proudly served on the industrial fire brigade for more than 20 years. He carries his fire gear with him at all times as he travels throughout the county. He is a volunteer member of the Shirley, Middlebourne and Sistersville departments too. Small departments have to work together and share supplies and manpower during emergency situations. Luckily for area residents, these brave men turn out for each other and their communities.
Ron was named chief of the Alma department in 2017. In order to become a fire chief, you must have certain requirements like basic Fire Fighter 1&2 along with Hazmat Fire Training. Successful completion of Fire Officer 1 will allow you to serve as a captain or lieutenant in a department, but it is completion of Fire Officer 2 that is a requirement to be named chief.
I asked Ron about improvements in the department made during his tenure. Ron explained it is the fire levy which generates taxes especially on the oil fields in our community that has allowed many of the upgrades the Alma Department has been able to put in place. Recent advances are a new tanker truck after being without for a very long time, upgraded fire engine, SBEA breathing packs and tanks, new radios for all members and general upgraded equipment.
When looking back over his career in the fire fighting industry, I asked Ron to comment on the worst fire to which he has had to respond to. He answered quickly; it was the Dominion fire in May of 2019 when a near 1 million gallon natural gas condensate storage tank owned by Dominion Resources near Friendly was reportedly struck by lightning, causing it to catch fire. Fire fighting companies from both Tyler and Wetzel Counties, along with the Coast Guard and other federal agencies, were called to help fight the blaze. Industrial fire suppression specialists brought foams much more potent than water, but the flames proved too intense even for that, and it soon became a matter of letting the fire burn out while containing it. It burned for more than 12 hours before being extinguished the following morning. No personal property was lost and there were no injuries, but approximately 20 nearby homes were evacuated because of smoke. The fire and gasoline were fully contained on the site throughout the event largely because of the success of the incident command system used at the staging area of the fire.
Chief McCrobie is one of five members of the Alma Volunteer Fire Department. They are always looking for new members. He encourages any young people looking for community service hours to consider his department, because it is an excellent source. “Washing the fire truck and spending time at the fire station are both excellent choices for volunteer community service hours. We encourage anyone to participate, but especially young people and hope that will generate interest in new members in the department,” explained the chief.