Shenandoah County fire and rescue chief to retire in September

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County’s fire and rescue chief will step down on Sept. 1 after leading the department for 14 years.

County Administrator Mary Beth Price announced Gary Yew’s retirement on June 22. Operations Chief Tim Williams will take over as interim chief until a permanent replacement can be found, Price said.

Yew, 59, was born and raised in Woodstock. He will join Old Dominion Security Services as its safety and emergency preparedness manager, in which he will consult with Valley Health hospitals in Woodstock, Luray and Front Royal on how to improve their safety protocols.

Yew spent 33 years with the Woodstock Volunteer Fire Department, including 15 years as its chief. He was also a forest technician for the Virginia Department of Forestry before joining the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue as chief in February 2002.

In a phone interview on June 24, Yew said his biggest accomplishment as chief has been integrating paid staff members into a department that had been all-volunteer.

“When I came on board, there were no career people, just the fire marshal,” he said. “Now it has grown to 48 full-time people to supplement our volunteer force.”

Last summer, Yew approved the expansion of 24-hour, five-day-a-week fire and rescue coverage to the Orkney Springs area on the county’s western edge last summer.

He also assumed control of New Market Fire and Rescue in December following the surrender of the department’s emergency medical services agency license and a dispute between county first responders and town volunteers that led to then Chief Robbie Smith’s ouster.

Williams congratulated Yew on his work as the department’s leader.

“He’s done an outstanding job,” he said. “It’ll be hard to replace him.”

Price also praised Yew’s contributions to the county’s well-being.

“Gary has been ... a fixture in the public safety community in Shenandoah County for decades,” she said. “He will be missed a great deal.”

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