Veteran fire fighter to lead squad
A 20-year volunteer firefighter is looking forward to fighting fires, saving lives and supporting his fellow volunteers in his new leadership role.
On Sept. 25, it was announced that John W. “Wert” Hayes, of Elevon, has been named the new fire chief of the Tappahannock Essex Volunteer Fire Department.
An Essex County native and graduate of Essex High School, Hayes first joined TEVFD in 1993 after witnessing the controlled burning of an old structure near the department.
Since joining, Hayes has accumulated several firefighting designations and certifications, including Firefighter 1 and 2, Hazmat Awareness, Hazmat Operations, Basic Pump Operator, Rural Water Supply, Emergency Vehicle Operator and National Incident Management System.
Hayes was honored to serve the two-year term as fire chief.
“It means a lot to be a head of a great organization like it is [with] the history that it has,” said Hayes.
He cited the support, dedication and commitment of the volunteer firefighters that he will lead.
“Being in my position, I’ve got a lot of good people behind me,” said Hayes. “That’s the best part. You’re no better than the people behind you, and I’ve got the best of all.
He noted that he cherished the camaraderie, excitement and energy that he found to be synonymous with his group.
I get a lot of satisfaction in being a part of the volunteer fire department,” said Hayes. “The people are great, but doing the job is great, too. “
Although Hayes said being chief may be a little different for him, he added he worked for great chiefs before and applauded the leadership of the following captains and assistant chiefs: Dick Bates, Corey Beazley, Kyle Durham, Mike Greber and Henry Baxter.
Hayes said he was most looking forward to making sure his firefighters come home safely as well as following the example set by the chiefs before him.
“Being as good as they are, I won’t have any problems,” said Hayes.
Outside of his longtime dedication to TEVFD, Hayes is also a residential contractor serving Essex County and the Northern Neck, an active member of the Tappahannock Seventh Day Adventist Church and an avid hunter and boater.
Married to Judi Bickford Hayes with three daughters-Elyse, Taylor and Hannah- and two female dogs, Wert is the only man in his household, saying that he “wouldn’t have it any other way.”