After following the same career path for the past 20 years, Ryan Sampson and Mark Stanton Jr. were two of nine Louisa County Fire and Emergency Services staff promoted in July to lieutenant.
Sampson and Stanton Jr. both started running with Louisa County Volunteer Rescue Squad in 1999 as junior members. They joined about a month apart. In early 2001 they got their Firefighter II certifications and became members of Louisa County Volunteer Fire Department.
Eighteen years after they first stepped into their turnout gear, they received their promotions to lieutenant at the same time, as well.
Sampson grew up in the Trevilians area, and credits his interest in firefighting to hanging around with friends who were older and members of Trevilians Volunteer Fire Department.
“There were people who I hung around with that were members of the fire department, and they were some of my biggest role models,” he said. “Mark Ellis, Tom McGhee, Chief Perkins later on... they had a big impact on me as a kid.”
Stanton, who was a Pennsylvania transplant, said that his father and some of his uncles had been firefighters and that it was something that had been a big part of his family.
“I think the camaraderie is a big part of it,” Stanton said. “It’s really like a family.”
After becoming members of Louisa Volunteer Fire Department, the two men bonded quickly, and worked through some of Louisa’s most high-profile incidents, from plane crashes to the 2011 earthquake. Sampson said that the ones involving people he knows are the hardest.
“It’s always hard when you get out there and it’s someone you know,” Sampson said. “There’s the flip side of that, though, and sometimes you can be there for someone you know in a big way.”
Prior to the establishment of Louisa County’s career firefighter and emergency services program, Stanton and Sampson were two of the hundreds of people who volunteered to help the county answer calls. Sampson worked for Louisa Auto Parts, and Stanton drove a forklift at the Walmart Distribution Center.
Stanton used his experience in firefighting to earn a job in the communications division of the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher in 2008. Then, in 2009, he joined Louisa County Fire and EMS as a paid firefighter, and Sampson joined as a dispatcher. Sampson would later follow his friend onto the career staff in 2012.
“A lot of people will take that path, from volunteer to dispatch,” Sampson said. “Then they will go into either career firefighter or EMS, or even law enforcement.”
In July, Louisa County Fire-EMS promoted nine new shift lieutenants to supervise the crews across Louisa County, including Stanton and Sampson. While it’s a supervisory position, it doesn’t mean the two young officers will be spending much time behind a desk. Stanton said that’s something he doesn’t expect for a long time.
“I want to be boots on the ground,” he said. “I don’t think I could ride a desk and be happy.”
“I like being able to invest my time and effort into my community,” Sampson said. “I live in my first due, the area I am assigned to cover, so I’m protecting the people and the assets of not just my community, but my friends and family, too.”