CHARLOTTESVILLE — When Aaron Collins, a volunteer firefighter with the Charlottesville and Wilkinson volunteer fire departments, walks into the facilities and looks at the board filled with names of firefighters available for calls, he can’t help but smile when he sees what is listed.

“When you see the name board and it says ‘Collins, Collins, Collins, Collins,’ it shows that we’re all in and here to support the community, and then you go on a run and see us all there, it’s pretty nice,” Aaron said.

Aaron’s big brother, John Collins, is the new fire chief at Charlottesville and has dedicated most of his life, since October 1994, as a member to the volunteer firefighting services in Charlottesville and Wilkinson.

While Aaron became a career firefighter with the Lawrence City Fire Department in 1998, like his older brother John, he has also been a part of the volunteer firefighting services in the eastern part of the county since 1995.

Aaron’s son, Harrison Collins, who is John’s nephew, along with John’s daughter, Morgan Collins, are also on the volunteer Charlottesville and Wilkinson staffs and have both chosen to be career firefighters like Aaron.

“Aaron went with me on a couple of runs when I first started as a volunteer, and he really liked it and decided to make firefighting his career,” John said. “Harrison and my daughter have basically been going on volunteer runs with me and my brother since they could walk and now to see them both actually taking part on a volunteer basis and with full-time firefighting careers is pretty exciting.”

Aaron, who is also a farmer, said that while all four of the Collins family members don’t always go out with each other on every run in Charlottesville and Wilkinson, it’s great support when on some runs the whole family is fighting fires or covering community needs together.

“It shows we’re all there to support the community,” Aaron said. “It can also be tough because as a dad and an uncle, you’re always going to have that protective bone in your body, but Harrison and Morgan are both trained and can help protect me and John, too, so that’s a nice feeling.”

It was probably inevitable that both Aaron’s and John’s kids found their way into the volunteer fire service. The two young Collins spent years watching their fathers give to the community as first responders. While John is not a career firefighter, after working for Chrysler in Kokomo for many years, he now works for the county’s 911 emergency unit as well as with the volunteer fire departments.

“Right now, we’ve got about 23 full-time volunteers, and four of us are Collins,” John said.

John said he’s proud his daughter and nephew both volunteer in Charlottesville and Wilkinson and both decided to become career firefighters.

“It’s kind of neat seeing a younger, new generation take over,” John said. “It’s been kind of neat to watch how they’ve grown because when they first started doing this they would call me or Aaron to make sure we were going on a run, but now they don’t have to because they are more confident in their abilities.”

Harrison, 22, is career firefighter with the Noblesville Fire Department while Morgan, 25, finished firefighter 1 and 2 and EMT classes with the Greenfield Fire Territory this past summer and plans to be a career firefighter.

Morgan didn’t officially sign up to be part of the volunteer crew with Charlottesville and Wilkinson until the beginning of 2023 despite repeated efforts by her dad to give it a try.

“In 2023, that’s when I decided this is the career path I wanted to take,” Morgan said. “I remember when I was little hearing the fire radio go off, and I would run to the car and always be so interested, but it took me a little longer to figure out exactly what I wanted to do.”

After taking training classes, Morgan said things clicked. She said it’s great seeing her cousin Harrison out on local runs because he’s always showing her the proper way to handle situations.

“He’s already an EMT and a career guy, so he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he finds the time to show me things and being able to learn from him, my dad and my uncle is really helpful,” Morgan said.

For Harrison, who started volunteering as soon as he turned 18, there was never any doubt he was going to be a career EMT/firefighter. Not only is his dad one, but relatives on his mom’s side of the family are also firefighters.

“Ever since I saw my dad doing it, I knew this is what I wanted to do, too,” Harrison said. “I love it more than anything in the world.”

Harrison said being a full-time firefighter is demanding, but he’ll always find time to be part of the volunteer staff with Charlottesville and Wilkinson, the place he still calls home.

“Ever since I can remember, it’s what my dad and my uncle have done, so it’s something I wanted to do too,” Harrison said.

All four of the Collins family members went to Eastern Hancock High School, and they all live in the same Charlottesville – Wilkinson area by Willow Branch, which makes it easy for pickups on runs.

“It’s definitely kind of cool, and since we all live right there in the same area, when you see one of us leaving for an emergency run, we usually stop and grab the others if we can,” Harrison said.

Harrison noted being a first responder can be a stressful job and having family members who understand that and can help lookout for the mental and physical well-being of each other is special.

“It’s cool that as a family we can all help others and do it together and help make each other better,” Harrison said.