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After decades of service, volunteer firefighter retires Christmas Day

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Christmas Day was the final shift for Ashland volunteer firefighter Jamie Henley. After more than three decades fighting fires around Central Virginia, Henley decided to retire as an Ashland volunteer.

"Just about every weekend I'm here,” Henley said at Station 1 in Ashland. "One bad night of not getting any sleep was pretty much the thing that made me make the decision to give up the volunteer part of it. We're pretty busy at work and this station has become pretty busy also."

For Henley, being a firefighter in his blood.

"My dad was volunteering at the Rockville Fire Department and I joined the Rockville Fire Department when I was 16 years old. From there to career firefighter for Chesterfield and I've been with Montpelier and now Ashland in Hanover,” he explained.

Henley has been a full-time firefighter in Chesterfield and a volunteer in Hanover for more than three decades. He spent Christmas Day working his last shift, surrounded by family and fellow fighters, including his wife.

"We’ve been married 22 years,” Lisa Watkinshenley said.

Watkinshenley, also a volunteer firefighter, works with her husband on the same engine with the Sunday night crew.

"I can understand where he's coming from," she said. "Doing it as a career and doing volunteer here. It'll wear on you, especially being up at nights and not having any sleep."

Watkinshenley said it would not be the same without her husband, but she's got a feeling he won't be gone for long.

"I've seen it before in the family. They say they're going to get out and then they miss it and they come back in,” she said.

Henley said he hoped to get some rest and take some time to get back to his hobbies.

"I love to metal detect. Hunting -- deer hunting, duck hunting, stuff like that,” he said.

"Our crew will miss you, but you can visit,” Watinshelney joked.

“I'll come and visit. But don't count on me coming back for good,” Henley replied.

Henley said he planned on staying full-time with the Chesterfield Fire Department for as long as he can. His father, he explained, recently retired at 75 years old.

If you would like to get more information about becoming a volunteer firefighter, call Hanover Fire-EMS at 804-365-6195.