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Passing of retired PWC Fire Chief Selby Jacobs, pioneer in firefighting, training, fire prevention

Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue and the Prince William County Fire and Rescue System regret to announce the passing of retired Fire Chief Emeritus Selby Jacobs, the “Father” of the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue, according to a news release. Born Oct. 25, 1934, he died on Dec. 2, 1919. Jacobs served county residents for 28 years, retiring 25 years ago in 1994.

Mere words cannot describe Chief Selby Jacobs and the years of outstanding dedication and exemplary service he provided to the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue and citizens of Prince William County.

Chief Jacobs brought exceptional knowledge, expertise and skills that aided in the creation and foundation of the county’s fire and rescue service.

He began his career with the Prince William County Fire Service, in 1966, as the first Fire Marshal. Although his primary responsibility to develop a Fire Building Code, his duties consisted of a wide range of tasks that included educational programs and instruction for the annual county fire school at which time he was the only state certified instructor in the county.

In 1967, as Fire Marshal, Jacobs was assigned the responsibility of managing the Public Safety Communications Service. That same year, he led the effort to create a 9-1-1 system, the first 9-1-1 system on the east coast and among the first three in the United States

Due to the physical requirements firefighters have to possess to perform in hostile operating conditions, he created a physical agility testing program for firefighters; it was the first in the National Capital Region and among the first in the nation. This program compelled him to initiate our physical fitness program. 

In 1969, Jacobs was designated as Fire Administrator, then responsible for managing three branches of the fire service (Fire Marshal’s Office, Fire Suppression and Communications).

As the county’s population grew, expansion of the fire service was essential, spurring a greater need of fire protection for county residents. He recognized the need for training and established a training division for three program areas within the fire service; firefighters, volunteers and fire code enforcement.

During this same time period, Chief Jacobs created the “Operations Exit Drill in the Home” known as EDITH that spread nationwide. Today, 50 years later, the program is still being used as a fire prevention method in saving lives.

Prince William County was one of eight departments, that year, to receive Special Recognition for Fire Prevention by NFPA.

In 1972, he became Director of the Fire Service and appointed as Coordinator of Emergency Services, a new program. This distinguished program was put to the test, that same year, when the county was severely impacted with major flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes. Today, the Emergency Services program, created by Chief Jacobs, remains on the cutting edge of excellence.

Under Chief Jacobs direction, the Department became a trailblazer within the fire service. Also in 1972, Chief Jacobs and the Department adopted one of the first sprinkler ordinances in the nation providing fire protection for the community. Although the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code that prohibited localities from exceeding the statewide code, the Department became a leading voice in influencing building code changes used throughout the nation.

In 1973 Jacobs hired the first Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), thereby, renaming the service as the Prince William County Fire & Rescue Service. He partnered with the U.S. Park Police to provide medivac service allowing for the transport of critically injured patients to a trauma center and into surgery within the “Golden Hour.”

Another first for the Northern Virginia region was installing a communications system allowing persons with speech and/or hearing impairments to communicate with the 9-1-1 telecommunicators. In 1977, Chief Jacobs advanced the EMS system, upgrading rescue teams to advanced life support units to complement a new fleet of medic units he secured through a federal grant.

More about Jacobs’ career will appear in the Dec. 13 edition of the Bull Run Observer.

Bucktrout Funeral Home in Williamsburg, that bills itself as the oldest funeral home in America, is in charge of arrangements,

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