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State Fire Marshal visit a culmination of a three-decade partnership

From the Swan Quarter Volunteer Fire Department

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s recent visit with the Swan Quarter Volunteer Fire Department was, in actuality, an accumulation of more than thirty years of partnership between the two organizations.

In North Carolina the Insurance Commissioner also serves as the State Fire Marshall, and in recent months Causey’s mission has been to visit each of the state’s fifty counties to meet with firefighters. He has shown a special interest in the many volunteer fire departments – seeing how they conduct their day-to-day business and learning what their struggles are.

The State Fire Marshall’s Office also oversees the North Carolina Volunteer Fire Department Fund, which was established by General Statue 58-87-1 to provide matching grants to volunteer fire departments to purchase equipment and make capital improvements.

Since 1989 the SQVFD has received almost a quarter of a million dollars from that fund to purchase essential firefighting equipment – including two trailers and three vehicles. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a small rural community that is spread out over 170 square miles – including portions of two major bodies of water.

A new rescue truck that is used on almost all types of calls was put in service in 2009. And in 2014, a quick response vehicle, loaded with emergency equipment, medical bags, oxygen, air and manual rescue tools and some hazard mitigation equipment was put into service. It is used for all calls and with its very quick response capabilities it is often first on the scene. It can also haul a trailer loaded with necessary equipment or to make frequent supply runs out of the county.

The department’s first-ever new brush truck was acquired in 2015. This vehicle can be used for many calls, but is especially needed as a quick response vehicle for brush fires, medical first responder calls, and vehicle accidents. It is used to pull the fire/rescue boat or the second trailer that contains ag-rescue equipment. A newly installed skid unit for this truck was also funded by a NCVFDF grant.

SQVFD Fire Chief Jeffrey Stotesberry is quick to point out that the department has raised over $170,000.00 in matching funds in order to qualify for these grants. “With the generous donations from our supporters we were able to meet the  required percentage of matching funds. This allowed us to leverage over $400,000.00 altogether for much needed and updated equipment.”

“On occasion, when the cost of the item we needed exceeded the amount of available grant, we took out loans to provide the additional funding. Since 2016 the County of Hyde has also made matching funds available to each of the county’s six volunteer fire departments for this grant, and that has helped us tremendously,” he went on to say.

Looking back on the visit, Stotesberry indicated that, “Having Commissioner Causey visit our department meant a lot to us because we were able to sit and talk to him. He got to see first-hand how we have to operate and how important this particular grant is to us. Without it, there would be no way we could accomplish what we do.”

He went on to say that, “Many people don’t understand what it means to be an all volunteer organization. We have no paid employees. Hyde County does not have a fire tax so in addition to the grants and low-interest loans we qualify for, we depend on the support of the community to help us. We have an annual letter-campaign and many fund-raisers throughout the year, which help us make ends meet. It makes me feel good that we can take the funds we get from the county and from our supporters and in turn give back to our community.”