The history of the Fair Grove Fire Department is as rich in humanity, self-reliance, and public service. The late Dr. Plummer sparked the interest for a fire department in Fair Grove in the mid-1950s. His idea had little support in the beginning but remained etched in the minds of others until in 1956 when a committee was founded through the support of the Fair Grove Lions Club. This committee consisted of Charlie Cline, E.T. Kearns, Richard Jarrett, Carroll Beusse, John Black and others. The committee met with Mr. Bailey of the American LaFrance Company in the summer of 1957 at the old Fair Grove School and placed an order for a 1957 GMC pumper. Arnold Fuller was elected the first Fire Chief of the newly organized department. Arnold’s term was cut short as he was drafted and sent off to the military by Uncle Sam. After his tour of duty, Arnold came back to rejoin the department and held many offices and ranks throughout his years and is an active member today. Soon after the truck was ordered, the wheels started turning to raise money to pay for the truck and equipment. Membership dues for the fire department for the first year were twenty-five dollars. This would cover the home and any buildings on the property. Many people could not afford to pay the monies so Raymond Rothrock made arrangements with the bank to let the residents sign a note and borrow the money or they could make installments to the department. The first truck arrived December 24th, 1957 by railroad car. For those who had worked so diligently to get the fire department in operation, this was a wonderful Christmas gift. The firefighters had their first piece of equipment but nowhere to keep it. Johnny Everhart, one of the charter members, opened up his wife’s space in the garage to keep the new truck. In the early part of 1958 the department purchased a small piece of property from the Norris family for six hundred dollars, adjacent to the present station on Cedar Lodge Road. Work soon began as the whole community came together to build the first station. The building was just large enough for two trucks, an oil circulator, and bunk beds. The next piece of equipment was a Dodge truck donated by Hassell Woods. This truck was used as a tanker for hauling water.
Rex Gallimore was elected as the second Chief of the department, a position he held for three years. During Chief Gallimore’s time in office, several trucks were purchased from military surplus and used as tankers to supply the water demands on a fire scene. Also, during this time, living quarters, a meeting room, and office space for department secretary Doug Taylor were added to the old station. Richard Jarrett was elected Fire Chief in 1962, a position he would hold for the next twenty years. While Chief Jarrett was in office, the department saw many challenges and changes. In 1963 a new expansion of three bays was added to the front of the old department. In 1967 an order was placed for the second new truck for the department. This Ford/American LaFrance was placed into service April of 1968. Bar-B-Q pits were first built in 1965. The pork bar-B-Q dinners, held twice a year, were a vital part in financing the department’s needs as people were still reluctant to join the department’s membership and pay their dues. Other used trucks such as oil tankers were switched out during the late 60’s. It was easier to replace some of them than to make some of the much-needed repairs. Communication and response in these days prior to 911 and radio dispatch was primitive and complicated. The department had its own emergency telephone number, nicknamed the “fire” phone by the firefighters. A phone was located at the station but it was not manned during daytime hours. The emergency number’s lines were also connected to phones in the Chief’s house, his work place, the gas station next door to the station and at neighboring Thomasville City Fire Department which was a fully manned municipal department. The firefighters were alerted to calls by an air-raid style siren that could be heard for miles. Neighboring department’s sirens had different patterns and pitches so that firefighters could tell which department had a call. After responding to the station, firefighters could get details, such as the address and type of call, from notes left by the person who answered the phone call. In order to help with locating the fire, those responding in the initial apparatus tossed paper bags filled with “lime” marking powder, as used to mark sports fields, onto the street before and after turns were made allowing the additional firefighters to “follow” them to the call. In order to reduce response times at night, when most fires occur and firefighters were at home, firefighters took turns spending “duty” nights at the station to answer the “fire” phone and respond with the apparatus. The “Ladies” Auxiliary, mostly wives of the firefighters, also spread the word of the call by manning a “phone tree”. This was initiated by the chief’s wife, after listening in on the emergency line at his home, would then call the officer’s homes with the incident info, whose wives would in turn call four or five firefighter’s homes, and so on, until all the firefighters received a phone call telling them of the incident.
The 1970’s and 80’s were decades of growth for Fair Grove, both for the department and the community it served. In the early and mid-70’s the department bought its first real brush truck, an International Harvester pick-up with a pump mounted in an extended front bumper. Surplus military trucks were used in the past and found inadequate to perform the job of fighting brush fires. A new pumper was added in 1975 and Chief Jarrett and Arnold Fuller went to Wisconsin to pick it up. This Ford/Pierce “cab-over” truck was one of the first custom built fire engines in Davidson County. At this time, the old oil tanker was sold to Gumtree Fire Department. Fire prevention and education has always been a priority to the members of the department. Ronnie Sink, as Fire Prevention Officer, started children’s fire prevention classes in the early 70’s through 4-H. The firefighters of Fair Grove have touched the lives of thousands of children in their fire prevention efforts. The department organized a Junior Fire Department in 1974. Ronnie Sink and many others have led this program which has been a mentoring program as well as a learning program for the youth of the community. Many Junior Firefighters have advanced into the “senior” department as well trained young men and women. At least half of the current firefighters have started as juniors. The department started collecting property taxes for funding in the mid 70’s which released the burden of collecting dues from subscribers, knocking on doors trying to gain new members, and cooking and selling Bar-B-Q to support fire protection services. Having enjoyed the fellowship and the coming together of the community the Bar-B-Qs provided, the firefighter’s decided to continue the dinners and place the profits in a “Fireman’s Fund” to be used to support local people in need, and other charitable organizations. In 1977 a new 1-ton Chevrolet truck was purchased as a brush truck. This truck served the department well for over twenty-five years. 1977 also brought one of Fair Grove Fire Department’s darkest days. While participating in a training fire, Training Officer Doug Cranford was severely burned over most of his body. His actions that night in making sure everyone else escaped injury, his courage during his treatment and recovery, and his faithfulness to his department as he returned and served as member for many years after, has inspired generations of Fair Grove firefighters. In 1978 a van was added as a utility carrier for the department. The van carried such equipment as spare SCBA bottles and ventilation equipment. In 1979 additional property adjacent to the department was purchased from Elliot Florist and Johnny Everhart. In 1982, after 20 years of serving the community, Chief Richard Jarrett retired from the department. In his 20 years, he received many awards and touched many people across the state of North Carolina. Craig Harris was elected the fourth chief of the department. The department and the community around it had grown at an alarming rate. Industry and houses were starting to blossom all over the district. The department covered many industrial facilities in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Businesses such as Rex Plastics, Thomasville Furniture Industries, Mesa Industries, and Southern Resin were just a few of the businesses protected by Fair Grove in this era. The old station had been built onto many times and we were experiencing more growing pains. In 1986, the decision was made by the Board of Directors to build a new facility. In addition to planning a new station the department was also in need of another truck. EEI of Raleigh was contracted to build a combination pumper tanker truck to fulfill those needs. With the establishment of county-wide emergency dispatching of incidents and the inception of the 9-1-1 emergency phone number, 1986 also marked the year that the department purchased the first portable radio pagers for firefighters. 20 pagers were bought to begin with. This would allow all the firefighters the luxury of knowing at the point of dispatch the location and nature of the call. In 1987 the thirtieth anniversary was celebrated at the department with Bar-B-Q, music and games for all. In 1988 the department joined Pilot, Holly Grove, Triangle and Central in the purchase of a van with a cascade system for filling SCBA air bottles on the fire scene.
The members of Fair Grove began expanding their abilities and services in the 1990s. In December of 1990 the department purchased pagers for all of its 64 firefighters. After serving in the capacity of Chief of the department for eleven years, Craig Harris chose to return to firefighter status in 1993. Work responsibilities hampered his time he felt he needed to spend with the department. During that same election Caroll Beusse retired from serving as the fire department’s treasurer, a position he held for thirty-two years. Also, in 1993 the purchase of a new front-line pumper was in the works. The truck would be placed on a Freightliner chassis and built by the 3 D Manufacturing Company. Under the leadership of Chief Don Byrd, the department placed the apparatus into service in March 1994. Chief Byrd led the department for two years as the fifth department chief. Training was becoming more adequate through the community college system and the department was starting to take advantage of it, as more of the staff was becoming state-certified. As fire-science and technology advanced, the department started to reorganize the manner in which we fought fire. In 1995, Ron Akins, was elected Fire Chief. During 1995 the 1967 Ford American LaFrance was involved in a single vehicle accident which totaled the apparatus. The department ordered a new engine to replace the wrecked apparatus. The EEI Company of Raleigh once again gained the business of the department in building the truck. After the order was placed and just weeks into his new position Chief Scott Rudisill, elected in January of 1996, would involve another piece of apparatus in a single vehicle accident. The first Freightliner from 3D Manufacturing was rolled on old highway 109 past Light Road. It was a blessing no one was hurt in any of the accidents. This prompted us to take a closer look at our drivers training requirements. In June of 1997, the department celebrated their 45th year of service. The Fair Grove Fire Department responded to the New Hanover county area during the hurricane season of 1998. Hurricane Bonnie swept across the eastern part of the state, sending heavy rains and winds. Fair Grove and five other departments from across the county gave relief to New Hanover county firefighters so they could get their own lives back together. This was the first of many deployments to other areas of the state to assist during times of major emergencies. To enhance the need for better medical and rescue assistance the Fair Grove Fire Department implemented a plan that would supply the district with trained medical and fire personnel around the clock. The department put on paid employees around the clock and purchased medical and rescue equipment. Many of the existing firefighters were members of local rescue or EMS organizations. This made the transition, in 1999, from an all-volunteer fire department to a fire-medical-rescue combination department a lot smoother. Responding to Fire, Rescue, and EMS related calls resulted in a jump in an annual call volume to over 1000 calls in 2000. The department took delivery of a new engine from Quality Apparatus and a new Ford F-550 brush unit in 2001. After a drowning incident took the life of a local teen, several members with recreational interest in SCUBA diving raised funds to start a Water Rescue\Recovery Team with seven divers in 2006. In 2007 the department celebrated its 50 year anniversary with a banquet and a visit of the original GMC engine. Due to the growth in the City of Trinity area covered by Fair Grove Fire Department, the department purchased land on Welborn Road in Fall of 2005 and open Station 45 in 2008. The department elected their eighth Chief, Andy Lyndon, in 2010. Other purchases increased the rolling stock. Cars for the use of the Chief and Officers, and a Utility\Rescue Unit to replace the smaller 1978 van filled in support positions.
Recent years have brought more progress in capabilities and coverage. Chief Jason Myers, elected in 2013, put into service a Ford F-350 squad unit for medical response in 2014. 2015 saw the retirement of Ronnie Sink from the position of Department Secretary after 35 years of service. The expansion of services into EMS and Rescue took another step when the department was certified for medium rescue by the state of NC in 2016. 2016 was also the year Fair Grove achieved their best fire response rating of 5 for the entire district. Even more growth was seen in 2017 with the opening of a sub-station, Station 44, on Lee Rd, which has allowed us to bring fire coverage to a previously uncovered area to the south of the district.
We at Fair Grove have been blessed with 60 years of capable, knowledgeable board members, officers with great leadership ability, and members of great dedication and courage. These men and women of character and commitment are the examples we try to emulate as we serve the citizens of Fair Grove and the surrounding area.
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