ONANCOCK, Va. – Walk into any establishment on the Shore, and it’s likely you’re in the company of a volunteer firefighter, he or she probably not first-generation. If you’re not, it’s highly probable you have one or more who’s a neighbor, works with you, or attends your church. The prevalence and importance of volunteer firefighting, as well as the later integration of professional firefighters, have inspired Ker Place’s fall exhibit, “It All Started with a Spark: The Rise and Evolution of Eastern Shore Firefighting.”

The exhibit launches the evening of Friday, Sept. 27, and will run through mid-December at the museum, owned by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society (ESVHS) and located at 69 Market St. in Onancock. The display will showcase major fires from Eastern Shore history; highlight  historic artifacts as well as memorabilia; and explore the past, present, and future of firefighting on the Shore.

Onancock VFD

The opening reception will be from 6 to 8 p.m. that Friday. The general public, particularly volunteer and professional firefighters along with their families and friends, are invited to this free event.

Light hors doeuvres and a cash bar will be available.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the historical society will host a panel discussion from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11. Officials from the Accomack County Sheriff’s Department; the Virginia State Police; and potentially branches of the federal government, such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; will discuss how their organizations operate independently as well as in conjunction with one another during a long, large investigation, such as the 2012-13 arsons. This event will cost $5 for each ESVHS member and $10 a person for the general public.

The location will be the Onancock Baptist Church, 1 Crockett Ave. Purchase tickets at shorehistory.org.

Also planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 is a free Family Fun Day revolving around fire safety and firefighting. This will be on the front lawn of Ker Place. Various Shore fire companies and departments will have equipment on display; Sparky the fire dog will be out and about for  pictures; and there will be giveaways for the kiddos. The Accomack County Department of Public Safety will be bringing its fire prevention house for kids to tour. ESVHS also hopes to have some contests among firefighters, for example, who can put their turnout gear on the fastest. If you’re a firefighter interested in participating in the contest(s), please contact Amy Savona, ESVHS marketing director, at (757) 787-8012 or marketing@shorehistory.org.

Family-friendly lunch items will be available.