Nine local fire departments received grant money from the state to purchase equipment they needed to continue saving lives.
Brendletown and Enola fire departments were presented with checks by Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey as part of a grant program that distributed more than $8.5 million in matching funds to help departments buy equipment.
“It is a huge benefit to the fire departments to have that grant available to them,” Burke County Fire Marshal Mike Willis said.
At Brendletown Fire and Rescue, Chief Steve Johnson accepted $30,000 in grant funds, the maximum amount a department can receive through the grant program. Causey said it’s rare for departments to hit that threshold.
“We bought the Amkus electronic tools,” Johnson said. “(They’ll help with) vehicle extrication.”
That equipment will come in handy for responding to wrecks in the department’s service area, which stretches from Duckworth Circle on U.S. 64 to the Rutherford County line on the highway.
“It’s going to be a real asset,” Johnson said.
About 15 minutes away at Enola Fire Department, fire Chief Scottie Godfrey accepted $20,656 in grant funding to purchase new turnout gear, helmets, boots and an assortment of other gear.
“It’s all, everything that we purchase, is important,” Godfrey said.
The department has received funding from the grant every year since it started in 1987, Godfrey said.
“We’ve gotten this grant for every year consecutively since it’s been started,” Godfrey said. “We’ve used that to fund, really, our whole department and anything that would be instrumental in allowing us to use other funds to replace these bigger items. … it allows us to use some of our tax dollars for other things that, otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to do.”
Across Burke County, fire departments received a total of $126,168.89 from the grant funding.
The other departments that received grants are:
- Drexel Fire Department — $21,859.12.
- Chesterfield Fire and Rescue — $16,032.92.
- Jonas Ridge Fire and Rescue — $10,394.90.
- South Mountains Fire Rescue — $8,996.75.
- George Hildebran Volunteer Fire Department — $6,414.
- Glen Alpine Fire Department — $6,190.
- Drowning Creek Fire Department — $5,625.20.
Rhodhiss Fire Department also received $19,934.80 in funding, but it is listed as a Caldwell County fire department.
With some materials out of the way, Godfrey said, what his department really needs now are more volunteers.
“A lot of our guys are like me, who have come through the department in 30 years, are aging, and we need that young firefighter coming in to carry on from that foundation we have now,” Godfrey said. “We don’t have a populous area to pull people from, so anything we can do to try to reach out to the community and get those people, we’ll try to.”
Johnson said Brendletown has been fortunate to have a fairly full roster — 35 members with room for 40.
“We need help,” said Brendletown Lt. Ray Thomas. “All the stations need help. … Even though we’ve got 35, we could still use five more.”
Anyone interested in joining a local fire department or finding out how else to help should call the department or drop by a department meeting to learn more.
Brendletown Fire Rescue holds meetings at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Station 1 on U.S. 64. Enola Fire Department holds training meetings at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at its station on Enola Road.
Causey also delivered coloring books about fire safety to Brendletown and Enola fire departments as part of Operation EDITH, which stands for Exit Drill In The Home.
The coloring books were donated by the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina and typically are distributed at schools. But with many students opting for virtual learning in the wake of COVID-19, the books are being distributed to fire departments to hand out to children in their districts.
Johnson and Godfrey said that their departments likely will distribute the coloring books at a trick-or-treat events at their fire stations on Halloween. Details of the events still are being worked out, but they’ll likely be drive-thru events.
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