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home : news : news July 17, 2019

7/8/2019 1:25:00 PM
Fire Departments Seek Personnel, Facilities, More
Growth is ever-present factor
Chief Mitch Burgin stands by a tanker from the BCFD.(Photo Courtesy BCFD)

Chief Mitch Burgin stands by
a tanker from the BCFD.

(Photo Courtesy BCFD)

This tanker is part of the fleet from the LFD.(Photo Courtesy LFD)

This tanker is part of
the fleet from the LFD.

(Photo Courtesy LFD)

Thomas Lark
Staff Writer

LINCOLNTON––With Independence Day still fresh on our minds, it’s a good time to remember those who protect us.

Where would America be without its first responders? The people of law enforcement, fire protection and ambulance and EMT services make the daily difference between life and death, countless times. And America is surely grateful.

But right now, there’s an ongoing nationwide shortage of firefighters, both professional and volunteer. Boger City Fire Department Chief Mitch Burgin and Lincolnton Fire Department Chief Ryan Heavner recently told The Herald more about this and how their departments are faring. 


Formed in 1907, Heavner’s department is today a wholly professional unit, with no volunteers. It consists of 28 full-time and 12 part-time staffers. Heavner added that the LFD’s fire district is 11 square miles.

“We would always like to have more manpower,” he said. “But being a municipality, we have budgets to work with. We are staffing part-time employees during peak hours to help with call volume. We also use part-timers for inspections, events and coverage for training staff.

“The LFD prides itself on being customer service-driven, to make sure citizens and visitors are safe,” he continued. “We ran 2,259 incidents in 2018, and we are on track to exceed that number for 2019. Our staff completes flow-testing of fire hydrants, pre-fire plans of buildings, fire hose-testing, public education tours and events. We check equipment and apparatuses daily and make sure our facilities are clean. Our staff had more than 8,750 hours of training for 2018. All these duties are performed while maintaining a state of readiness for emergency calls.”

With growth being seemingly inevitable, fire departments and their municipal governments must plan for this, as Heavner noted.                                 

“The City of Lincolnton has a growth plan in place,” he said, “and we adapt our operations to better fit the needs of our citizens. We go by rules and recommendations made by the North Carolina Rating Response System, which assist us with the budgeting of our future needs and making sound decisions for long-range plans. Our inspections department works closely with the Lincoln County Planning Department to recognize certain areas of growth and making changes to have a good outcome for future growth.”

Heavner added that the Lincolnton Fire Department recently earned a N.C. Rating Response System rating of “two,” which helps reduce insurance rates for commercial and residential properties within the Lincolnton city limits. And the chief observed that all the department’s aforesaid duties performed so proficiently played a huge role in obtaining such a good rating. 

Boger City

The Boger City Fire Department’s stationhouse is one of the area’s newer facilities. Situated on McAllister Road, it’s home to a hybrid unit of six full-time, 16 part-time and 17 volunteer staffers.

So with the ongoing shortage of firefighting personnel, how many more staffers would Burgin like to have?

“This is a difficult question,” he said. “It is more about active volunteers and active part-time staff. If our existing volunteers are not active, and we only see the majority of our part-time staff when they are actually on duty, we can’t expect to have a large turn-out at an emergency scene. Our current staffing level is three on duty, Monday through Friday, and two on the weekends. Our average turn-out is probably five to eight at best. As far as numbers go, 40 should be sufficient as long as they are actively participating in all functions.”

Burgin continued that the staffers of the BCFD meet twice a month at night. They perform daily truck and equipment checks; commercial pre-fire surveys; the flushing and painting of hydrants; public education; daily shift training; cleaning the fire station, maintaining the lawn, waxing the vehicles and testing the hoses; writing burn permits; installing car safety seats and smoke detectors; and more. The department responds to an annual average of 950 emergencies and serves a fire district of 22.3 square miles.

“We are in need of a second station at this time,” said Burgin. “We have an area on Randleman Road that would receive an insurance break if we added a station within five miles of that area. That station would have to be manned with at least two full-time or part-time personnel per day. We have already looked at an area within close proximity to the airport. However, there are no plans at this time for that project.

“We are currently in the process of purchasing a new engine at the end of this year,” he continued. “This will allow us to move a reserve engine to the second station when it is complete. With growth comes the need for more personnel and equipment. Naturally, the least expensive is more volunteers, but the realistic solution is additional full-time staff. The BCFD fire tax is currently 10.5 cents and would need to be increased accordingly in order to fund additional staffing and build a fire station. With commercial growth, there could be a need for an aerial apparatus that would need to be added for our fleet.”

Properties in the Boger City Fire Department’s district include Atrium Hospital, a prison, Iron Station Elementary, an EMS base, the Lincoln County Sherriff’s Office, the Timken plant, more than 30 churches, the Boger City Rest Home, some 3,500 homes, about 140 businesses, the Lincoln County Airport and Heath House.

“We do the best we can with the amount of manpower that we have,” said Burgin. “It generally takes four departments to handle a working fire incident. We strive to be good stewards of Lincoln County fire tax dollars and be a benefit to our citizens.”

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Related Stories:
• Ongoing Growth, Lack Of Volunteers Face Firefighters
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• Urgency For Volunteer Firefighters Reaches Critical State

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