History of West Stanly Fire Department

1953 to 2018


Remember when the events, the people came together to make a progressive “dream” come to fruition? We marvel at historical events like Lewis and Clark expeditions; we ooh and aah over “man walks on the moon!” But when I hear of the drive and bold gutsy decisions of a small town (Locust) east of Charlotte, stepping up to make things happen; I continue to be absolutely amazed!

A timeline of the Locust Fire Department (now part of West Stanly Fire Department) can be found on their web page: West Stanly Fire Department.com.

Remember when, or did you know that the LOCUST LIONS Club was the first volunteer fire department of Stanly County? The fire department was began in 1953 and organized in 1954.

Remember when the first fire truck was purchased? The fire truck was a 1943 Ford Air Force Crash Truck that had been sold by the US Air Force (Shaw Air Force Base) to the city of Camden, South Carolina. Locust purchased this fire truck from Camden for $2,500.00.

Remember when the Locust Lions Club appointed Richie Tucker to be the first fire chief? Some of you will remember when the picture of all the men on and around the fire truck was taken in front of the old Locust Elementary School. Some will remember when the fire truck had to be parked at Brock Osborne’s home because there was no fire house.

Remember when the calls to announce a fire had to go to different businesses (that had the luxury of phones)? The businesses were a barber shop, a gas station and a television repair shop. There was no dispatcher. There was no fire house.

Remember when a fire house was built? The calls then would come to the fire house, Chief Tucker’s house, and Huneycutt’s Esso gas station. Night phones would later be installed at Wilbur Almond and John Hatley’s homes.

Remember when a civil defense siren was installed on top of the fire house to alert the community of the fire? The volunteers that lived close to the firehouse would write directions on a black board to the fire so other volunteers could stop by the firehouse to find out which direction to go for the fire.

We must remember when there were no cell phones, no radios, no 24-hour news channels, no computers to direct volunteer firemen.

Do you remember when the Locust Fire Department was the first to form a fire tax district in Stanly County? The county threatened to remove the Locust Fire Department radio that was owned by the county.

The Locust die hard/firebrands ‘bucked’ the threats and made several calls and wrote several letters to Raleigh. That got results! Raleigh advised “certain officials of the county” that they could not remove the radio. Other fire departments in the county soon followed Locust’s lead. As of today, we are not aware of any Rural volunteer department that has not gone to the fire tax district system that is in Stanly County.


Remember when Locust was the first fire department to build a drop tank system for quick delivery of water to drop tanks that are used on fires where there are no fire hydrants available? Unbelievable!


Remember when Locust was the first volunteer fire department to purchase a fire engine that was diesel powered? I cannot imagine such vision and determination for the future!

Remember when Locust was the first volunteer fire department to buy and build a portable air cascade system that could travel to a fire scene and refill air packs used by fire fighters going into a structure fire.

Remember when Locust was the first volunteer fire department to buy a ladder truck? This group is the ONLY department to have a 95’ foot tower truck in Stanly County! For simplicity sake - that is equivalent to almost 10-story building!

Remember when West Stanly Fire Department is the only fire department that is North Carolina State Certified to respond to several types of rescue calls in Stanly County? Locust Volunteer Department and Rocky River Volunteer Fire Department merged to become West Stanly Fire Department. They formed a water rescue team! I continue to be amazed!

Remember when, yes, but know NOW, that this department is run like a business with professional firefighters in leadership positions. This community that we call home (LOCUST) is very blessed by the dedicated people that have served and have left their mark in our community. They are the only paid volunteer fire department in Stanly County that is manned 24 hours a day 365 days a year and offers Advanced Life Support when running medical calls in Stanly County.

This is a whole lot of ‘remembering’, but the more I learn about Locust and the unified “never-say-die” spirit; the more I thank God that my journey through life has allowed this town of Locust to become a part of me - and I, a part of Locust!

Thank you, Locust Lions Club. Thank you Richie Tucker, Pete Burleson, Hugh Little, Carol Barbee, Brock Osborne, A.J. Furr, Reece Almond, Harold Furr, Wilbert Almond, Burton Barbee, Grady Tucker, Coy Barbee, Roy Huneycutt, Gene Almond, Red Huneycutt, John H. Hatley, Val Barbee, David Osborne, and Charlie Jenkins! You are our heroes.

 

(I want to thank Joe Bishop [retired firefighter and later a chief of the Locust Volunteer Fire Department] for most of the timeline and historical events of this article).