NC firefighters get new station after tornado

The Autryville Fire Department was forced to operate in a trailer for more than a year after their station was destroyed by a tornado


By Chase Jordan
The Samson Independent

AUTRYVILLE, N.C. — Firefighter Reed Herring spent a portion of his Friday morning cleaning a bright red truck parked outside of Autryville’s new station.

“It’s awesome,” Herring said about the spacious department.”It’s nice to finally have a home.”

Autryville’s new fire station has a larger bay size allowing for more room if there’s a need to add more trucks. (Photo/AFD)
Autryville’s new fire station has a larger bay size allowing for more room if there’s a need to add more trucks. (Photo/AFD)

Herring and his fellow firefighters were forced to operate in a trailer for more than a year after their station was destroyed by a tornado on the evening of Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

“It’s a lot better than staying in that trailer,” Herring said while spraying down the fire engine.

Fire Chief Andrew Hawkins feels the same way.

“I think it’s taken a lot of stress off of all of us,” Hawkins said.

The department began using certain parts of the building after Hurricane Florence for emergency reasons. Before the 2017 incident, the department was split up into two sections, with the bay in center.

The new design provides more convenience for the firefighters when it comes to using restrooms, living areas and offices for operations. Autryville’s new fire station has a larger bay size allowing for more room if there’s a need to add more trucks.

Before the damage, there was four spots — now there’s six. A single fire engine was saved from the storm, which prompted the department to purchase more from Cumberland County, Cary and Bayleaf departments. There’s also a spare building across from the parking lot. Some of the other improvements includes a day room, training space, additional office, kitchen and bed rooms.

“There’s a lot more space and it flows a lot better than before,” Hawkins said.

In all, the estimated cost of the building, equipment and vehicles was near $1.8 million. The building alone is about $850,000. Funds came from insurance money and fundraisers from supporters across Sampson County and other communities.

Outside, the first coat of asphalt outside was recently laid with help from the State of North Carolina and Barnhill Contracting Company. In the spring, more exterior work will be done. Some of the steps besides paving include landscaping and putting up signs with the department’s logo. Another goal is to build a memorial in the yard to remember firefighters or board members.

“It’s just giving all of us a feeling that we’re finally finishing the project,” Hawkins said. “We got really excited about a portion and it was like winning the lottery. But then, we had so many other things to finish and we’re finally getting to a point where it feels good. I think the guys are really excited about having something they can be proud of.”

The department is home to more than 30 volunteer firefighters, which will benefit from new equipment and upgrades.

“It’s been a learning experience for me as well as our entire organization,” Hawkins said about improvements for rescue missions. “It really helped us get to a point or a level that we’ve never been able to get to financially. We could have had a bigger station or a more flamboyant station, but what we got exactly what we felt that we needed at the time.”

Hawkins and his fellow firefighters would like to host an open house after all phases of the work is completed. A tentative time frame is early February 2019.

“We wanted to make sure it was something that we could feel proud about showing off to the community,” Hawkins said. “It’s going to be more of a thank you to everybody who’ve helped us, more so than just showing it off. We want to show everyone where their donations and time went to. We may not ever be able to truly express how thankful we are, but we can at least try.”

Copyright 2018 The Samson Independent

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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