Firefighting family has served Portsmouth for more than a century

Portsmouth

"Our family started in the volunteer bucket brigade."

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – In Hampton Roads, so many people have devoted part of their life to protecting the rest of us.

There’s one family that stands out, because of a legacy of service dating back more than a century.

You’ve probably seen the name before: Hoffler.

It’s been emblazoned on Portsmouth Fire Chief Jim Hoffler’s jacket for 45 years, and he still shows up on the scene at any hour.

“I don’t ever turn my radio off,” Hoffler said. “And it’s not because I have to check up on these guys, it’s because I love being out there with them.”

That love began long ago, and the devotion a family tradition dating back before Hoffler was even born.

“It goes back so far, right after Civil War times, our family started in the volunteer bucket brigade,” he said. “Everybody kind of bonded together to fight fires using barrels full of water and hand drawn wagons.”

As bucket brigades gave way to organized fire companies and technology evolved from buckets to pumping engines, the Hoffler family remained a fixture.

Hoffler’s grandfather, father and uncles served in the department, making the station more of a second home as he was growing up.

“It was like having 200 fathers instead of one.”

But Jim wasn’t the department’s only son. His twin brother, John, also grew up watching his relatives rush off to emergencies.

He, too, spent decades with the department putting the family philosophy to work.

“Treat everyone like it’s your family and you always have good results,” John said.

Chief Hoffler is proud to lead a department where that has long been the expectation.

“It’s a culture that’s been passed down. I didn’t invent it. My father didn’t invent it. My grandfather didn’t invent it. We’ve always done it this way,” he said.

The chief’s nephew, his twin brother’s son, Justin is the newest generation of Hofflers making sure it stays that way.

“Growing up, you’ve got your heroes, your people you look up to, and I’ve looked up to these gentlemen my whole life and career,” said Justin Hoffler, who joined the department full time in 2014. “Hopefully, my daughter can look at me the same way and say the same thing about me.”

At age four, Justin’s daughter Leah is already running around the fire station, proud of her dad, grandfather and uncle, and eager to join the family trade as soon as she’s old enough.

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