First Posted: 1/15/2009
Seventy-three percent of all firefighters in the United States are made up of members of Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs).
Over 30 members belong to the Shannon Volunteer Fire Department and have recently celebrated the grand opening of the VFD’s new fire station, located off NC 71N in Shannon.
Some 100 residents of the Shannon community, Robeson County officials and guests attended the recent grand opening that took place on Saturday, November 11, 2006.
Chartered in November 1972, the department started out in a small, 40×60 foot building in Shannon, but grants from the state over the years has helped to increase the size of the building and finally allow the department to purchase and build this new station.
“It’s just wonderful to think where we started and where we are today,” said Chief Leo McMillan. “The need for a new building went from need to have. Basically, we went around and started raising money by holding turkey shoots, along with bake sales and plate sales. The many grants from the state helped us out, too.”
Donald H. Humphrey, Sadie M. Douglas and B.E. (Mac) Simpson got the department stated, with Joe Bounds, Dalton Carter, Claude Jordon, Hugh Chavis, Ervin Parker, George W. Southern and Alex Brown as its original board of directors.
Today’s board consists of Johnny McEachern, Dale Oxendine, Becky Hulon, Scott Hammonds, Sam Locklear and David Humphrey.
“This building means a lot to the community and I hope it means as much to them as it does to our firemen,” said Chief McMillan. “To the department, it just brings out the pride in the guys and it boosts morale. The guys give their time, spend their money in gas and are not reimbursed. We just wanted to help accommodate them with a proper building. Since they are giving their time to the community and by helping to save lives and property, I don’t mean to brag, but I feel the Shannon VFD does an outstanding job. I am really proud of them. I want to do all I can to make it better for them here at the department and I just hope the Shannon community understands that without them, we would not be able to do the things we do. The Robeson County commissioners have helped us out, too, and they believe in the county’s fire departments and they back us all the time.”
The building has three bays and covers 6,400-square feet of space. Aside from housing at least five trucks n two pumpers, two tankers and one brush truck n it has several offices, classrooms, a kitchen, and a storage and exercise room.
The department started with about 19-20 members McMillan stated.
Members of the department today include: Ramon Gonzalez, Ernest Smith, John Ammons, assistant chief, Willie Smith, Billy Frage, lieutenant, Chad Oxendine, Janice Smith, safety officer, Robert Hammonds Jr., Scott Hammonds, Samuel Hester, Danny Hulon, lieutenant, Samuel Locklear, David Humphrey Jr., Bryan Hawks, Robert Hammonds Sr., Dale Oxendine, Brandon Oxendine, Johnny McEachern, Terry Sampson, Charles Lowery, Leo McMillan, chief, Chris Hammonds, Craig Smith, Robert Wilkins, Becky Hulon and Richard Thomas, captain. Serving as junior firemen are: Jason Hammonds, Justin Huber and Justin Locklear. Roberts Wilkins is a charter member.
The department answers about 200 calls a year, covering approximately 27 square miles of Robeson County. The Shannon VFD offers mutual aid to other fire departments including Lumber Bridge, Red Springs and Rennert.
Chief McMillan states that the talks about the new fire station began in 2002.
“Fire department volunteers work hard to protect our county and they do a valuable service for our county, and so, to see facilities like this come to fruition is exciting and rewarding and very much deserving for this Shannon community,” said Robeson County Commissioner Raymond Cummings of District 5. “We’re happy and pleased to do what we can to see that our citizens are served in rural areas as well as incorporated areas. Monies for buildings like this come from tax dollars for the county fire departments. They get tax revenues from the areas that they protect. It really helps to sustain the fire departments and it’s really good for the whole county.”
There are approximately 32 volunteer fire departments in Robeson County.
“It’s great and it’s good for the Shannon community,” said Shannon resident Willie Mae Wilkins. “I never thought I’d see a fire department this big in Shannon. This has really impressed the young people and now the fire department is seeing more join.”
McMillan said that about 5-6 new members have joined this year.