LAKE LURE, N.C. (WSPA) – There’s a slice of heaven in western North Carolina, but something was missing at the Rumbling Bald Resort on Lake Lure in 1981.
That’s when the resort manager went to Gary Wilson, his security manager.
“He said ‘the way this community is growing now, we need a fire department,'” as Wilson recalls the story. “(I) said ‘that’s probably a good idea’ and he said, ‘glad you agree.'”
Wilson was handed a check for $2,000 and told to start the fire department. The Fairfield Mountains Volunteer Fire Department made its debut in 1981, but the $2,000 was only enough for a start.
“We had an active ladies auxiliary that went out and did fundraisers. We did everything you can think of from yard sales, golf tournaments, fishing tournaments, hotdog sales, barbecues all used to supplement (money) that we were getting from the town.”
Wilson stayed on as fire chief until he retired in 2021. He handed the job over to now Chief Matthew English who is also Wilson’s grandson.
“I mean, it’s kind of a family business,” Chief English told 7NEWS. “Round the station as a kid, riding the trucks as young as I remember.”
The Fairfield Mountains Fire Department has grown as has the area around Lake Lure. The equipment and trucks are new and modern. The department has also seen its important ISO rating improve from a 9 to a 4 over the past dozen years.
FMVFD answers between 150 and 200 calls annually and remains an all-volunteer department.
“We average ten people on a call, which is huge,” according to English. “To pay that for a paid fire department would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for the expense that has to retain paid staff and with the equipment we have we provide multimillion-dollar service for pennies on the dollar for the community.”
One department with more than four decades of service with two chiefs from the same family. However, the job is very different today.
“Back in the day. I mean, it was real cowboy-type stuff,” English said. “It was you know, blue jeans and a coat and go in and fight a fire.”
Chief English deals with a new reality now. “Houses burn entirely differently. They’re burning quicker, there’s more carcinogens.” Wilson added. “You’ve got to evolve with the times. You can’t stay in the 80s and 90’s and fight fires like we did.”
Modern equipment may aid firefighters but with a higher degree of danger.
“It’s really more dangerous now in ways than it was 30 or 40 years ago,” according to retired Chief Wilson. “Back then, you just didn’t go in because you didn’t have the gear to go in. Now, you do.”