Fire Department Developments in Pender County, 2013

This is a blog archives posting from October 24, 2013, and re-posted here as the original is unavailable due to technical issues.

October 24
Effective this month, the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department has merged with the recently created Pender Fire and EMS. As earlier parts of this posting note (click READ MORE), the private organization was created as merger of Pender EMS, Hampstead FD, Sloop Point FD, and Long Creek Grady FD. The volunteer Surf City FD, separate from the municipal Surf City FD, had planned to previously merge with the organization.

SCVFD had one fire station on Deer Run Road, with seven pieces of apparatus including two engines, two brush trucks, and three watercraft. They had thirty members. The department was organized 1974, renamed from Topsail Island FD. See these historical notes, from their web site and this blog. They answered 84 calls this year, through September 24. Prior call volumes were: 231 (2012), 258 (2011), 165 (2010), 149 (2009), 179 (2008), 217 (2007), 177 (2006).

Articles of Merger (PDF) were filed with the state of September 13. The below notice appears on the Surf City VFD web site:

Effective at 12:01am Tuesday October 1, 2013, the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department

will merge with Pender EMS & Fire Inc. Also, effective on this date, the Town of Surf City Fire Department will be providing fire protection coverage for the residents of the Northeast Pender Fire District.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank those that have supported us over the years. We could not have been more blessed with such a supportive community and our many wonderful dedicated volunteers. Thanks to each and every one of you!!

From our humble start on September 5 1966 to out last day of service October 1 2013, we tried to serve our community with pride, honor, respect and diligence. We provided our services for 47 years, however some parties felt that our services were no longer needed in our community. The Pender County Board of Commissioners decided to not renew the fire protection contract for the Northeast Pender Fire District with the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department.

Hopefully, the thoughts and memories of us and our members over those 47 years will remain in the hearts and minds of all of those whose lives we touched. Our spirit will live on through the lives of many.

It was sad to see our fire station close after so many years of dedicated service. A valuable asset to our community is now just a memory in the hearts and minds of many.


47 YEARS!!!!

August 11
Here’s the organization’s new emblem, as seen on a brush rig at the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo:

July 15
Reports this Star News story and this WECT story, the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department will not be participating in the merger with Pender EMS. The department will instead cease operation. Last month, county leaders voted to end their contract. The department is about $430,000 in debt. Their property and debt will be transferred to the county, which may sell or transfer some to the town of Surf City. The municipal Surf City Fire Department will be contracted to cover their Northeast Pender [Fire] District. They’re already covering nearby areas, due to the patchwork of incorporated versus unincorporated areas. There’s a 180-day period (if reading correctly) between the June 17 vote to cancel the contract, and the contract’s disillusion. The newly organized Pender EMS & Fire will thus be comprised of Pender EMS, Hampstead FD, Long Creek-Grady FD, and Sloop Point FD.

Here’s a revised map. Click to enlarge:

June 27
Reports this Star News story and this WWAY story, Pender County Commissioners last night voted unanimously to approve the merger of Pender EMS and four fire departments. The new organization will be named Pender EMS and Fire Incorporated. Their primary purpose will be to increase coverage, establish additional fire stations, and reduce ISO ratings. The merger will also increase financial accountability to the county and residents, decrease response times, and eliminate some redundancies in service. The merger will require a fire tax increase in the Sloop Point, Hampstead, and Scotts Hill fire districts.Here’s a quick map derived from the Pender County GIS system, showing the new district. It’s a monster! And is probably well-suited for expansion, if other Pender fire departments want to join someday. Gets a person thinking about what could be done in other counties. Though it’s worth noting that these fire districts are contiguous, with the exception of the Surf City area. They form an effective “swath” of coverage.1 Click to enlarge:

1What’s with the strikeout text? The first version of this map incorrectly included Rocky Point as one of the merging departments. Thus the erroneous description of contiguous districts covering a wide swath. Thanks for catching my error, John. The map also failed to color the entire Northeast Pender district, which is what Surf City VFD is contracted to cover. See revised map at the top of this post.

June 17
Four fire departments are now merging with Pender EMS, reports [link expired:]. The Surf City Volunteer Fire Department has joined the three previously announce fire departments that are merging: Hampstead FD, Sloop Point FD, and Long Creek Grady FD. Also, notes the story, the recent decision to shift Scotts Hill fire protection to New Hanover County FD has been placed on hold. County Commissioners discussed the merger today, reports this Topsail News Online story, but want a public meeting to discuss the proposal with residents.

Regarding Surf City FD, that’s a department with an interesting history, as we blogged about last year. The town and that area has been served by Topsail Island FD, Surf City Volunteer FD, Treasure Island FD (!), and Surf City FD since the 1960s. Upon completion of the merger, Surf City Volunteer FD will cease to exist, while Surf City FD (municipal) wlil contract with the county to provide protection to the district. The SCVFD building will be given to the town, while the SCVFD equipment will become part of the merged department. Got that?

Here are the particulars about SCVFD:

  • Surf City Volunteer Fire Department
    One fire station on Deer Run Road.
    Seven pieces of apparatus including two engines, two brush trucks, and three watercraft.
    Thirty members.
    Organized 1974, renamed from Topsail Island FD.

June 10 last week posted a pair of news items from Pender County. First is a planned merger of three fire departments and an EMS agency in the eastern part of Pender. As this story [link expired:] notes, Hampstead FD, Sloop Point FD, Long Creek Grady FD, and Pender EMS are forming a new non-profit corporation to handle both fire and EMS calls. The new, unnamed entity will be in operation by June 30. That’s the end of the current fiscal year. The merger, noted official in a press conference Thursday, was originated by the departments themselves. Question for readers, how common are fire plus EMS mergers in our state? Have seen plenty of fire into fire over the years and decades. But fire plus EMS in a merger? Perspectives welcome.And what size infrastructure are we talking about? Google find some facts:

  • Pender EMS and Rescue
    Six paramedic ambulances, two paramedic QRVs, two heavy rescue trucks, one bariatric transport ambulance, and four non-emergency patient care transport ambulances.
    Seventy-three full-time members and thirty-five part-time employees, along with volunteer members.
    Eight stations including two equipped with heavy rescue trucks, and one equipped with an ocean rescue team.
    One station is owned and staffed by Union EMS and Rescue, supplemented by a Pender EMS paramedic.
    Surf City EMS merged with Pender EMS in the summer of 2004, adding one station.
    Incorporated 2002.
  • Hampstead Fire Department
    One fire station on Highway 17.
    Land purchased for substation in Scotts Hill, but project presumed halted as fire district now covered by New Hanover County Fire Department. See next news item in this story.
    Incorporated 1983.
  • Sloop Point Fire Department
    Eight pieces of apparatus including two engines and two tankers.
    Four full-time employees, five resident firefighters, and forty volunteers.
    One fire station on Highway 17.
    Incorporated 1974.
  • Long Creek-Grady Fire Department.
    One fire station in Rocky Point.
    Incorporated 1954.

Second story is a development in the fire protection for Scotts Hill on the edge of Pender County. As this story [link expired:] notes, County Commissioners this week voted to contract New Hanover County to cover the Scotts Hill fire district. Presently, the protection is split with contracts to Hampstead FD and New Hanover County FD. This action follows a recent inspection that showed insurance rates could be reduced by the change. See this Star-News story as well.

Scotts Hill has a long history of fire protection issues. They had their own fire department in the late 1970s through the early 1990s. Scotts Hill Fire Department was incorporated in 1977, and operated in a rented building on the Poplar Grove Plantation on Highway 17. The department cased operation in/about 1992, and the district’s coverage was assumed by Hampstead FD and Ogden FD in New Hanover County. (The latter coverage later replaced by NHCFD.) Read this past posting for that story.

In recent years, Scotts Hill residents have been asking for better fire protection, and specifically their own fire station. The Hampstead FD pursued a substation at that location for two years, including purchasing land. Pender County Commission voted to cancel that project in June 2012. See this prior posting, or Google for news history. Does that cover it, or did we miss any important pieces?


Paul – When a fire department runs first responder to EMS calls (as is apparently typical in the US) I’m not sure what’s unusual about a FD/EMS merger? From living out west I was used to seeing Phoenix FD have their own fleet of ambulances, it was only when I moved here I realised that wasn’t necessarily typical.

DJ – Fire and EMS mergers around these parts are a little unusual. Dunn Rescue and Dunn Fire merged a couple of years ago and Apex Fire and EMS merged a couple of years ago (although that only lasted about a year). Morehead City and Havelock also used to operate separate fire and EMS agencies. There have been several ‘separations’ over the years- Goldsboro Fire gave up their EMS to Wayne County, as did Wilmington (although that was years ago). There are still a lot of combined agencies around (Parkwood, Atlantic Beach, Western Carteret, and I think Greenville and Eastern Pines, to name a few), still, fire based EMS (those that transport) are pretty unusual

Brian – A lot of it also has to do with the specific state and what their statutes dictate. For example in North Carolina, EMS is the legal responsibility of the county where fire protection is the responsibility of the municipality. That is why you see county run EMS agencies and municipality specific FDs or nonprofit corporations for the areas where there is no responsible municipality.

MC Nelson – I’d just like to mention that the commissioners shut down the Scotts Hill station because of feedback from the community. Hampstead FD were the ones pushing for the new station. The ISO rating for the area would have dropped from a 3 to a 6.

Legeros – Star News update: The departments and their boards have agreed to merge. County Commissioners must approve, which is expected on Monday. Plans for the new organization including hiring up to forty-eight career firefighters (while also retaining volunteers), and establishing two new fire stations over the next two years: on US 17 near Scotts hill and off NC 210 west.

Legeros – Makes you wonder if Apex EMS, Cary EMS, or Eastern Wake EMS could/would ever get into the fire business, and consider merging with any of Wake County’s private fire departments. Here’s my county fire map. You’ll have to imagine the fire district boundaries. Only stations and municipal areas are noted: 

ncnjems – Does Pender County EMS already cover all of Pender County? Makes you wonder why each county can’t have four departments. One fire, EMS, PD and 911 center. Would be the easiest way to reduce chiefs and constant overhead. You could even see large regional EMS departments or FD’s.

Legeros – County fire departments are considerably easier to conceptualize if it’s a bunch of private corporations that meld, versus municipalities in the mix, which bring their own issues to the table.

Legeros – Here’s a quick Wake County fire district map,

Pender – Pender EMS and Rescue currently covers the whole county with ems protection, minus the Watha area. In the Watha area Pender EMS and Rescue provides a 24 hour paramedic while Union EMS provides the basic. Pender EMS and Rescue also covers the whole county with rescue services. Some fire departments, mainly those that are merging with Pender EMS and Rescue, have limited rescue capabilities. This merger will be a very beneficial merger to the citizens of Pender County. Pender EMS and Rescue is a well-managed organization. The opportunities for growth are endless.

Legeros – Thanks for the information. That’s an easily overlooked part of the story. That PEMS also provides rescue, and brings those assets to the table.

John Maynard – I do not believe the fire districts are “contiguous” as stated in the above article. The Rocky Point Fire District is highlighted in yellow however they are not part of this merger from what I understand and have been told by one of their(Rocky Point FD) members. As you can see, Long Creek Grady is to the left of Rocky Point and “stands alone” from the other departments(Sloop Point, Surf City, Hampstead). The new entity will have to travel through Rocky Point to get to the Long Creek Grady area. Just food for thought, since I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it seems maybe a Long Creek Grady FD/Rocky Point FD or Atkinson FD would have been better suited.

Legeros – Yikes, you are correct. I will have to remake that map!

Pender – I left off one piece of information. The tax increase places the fire tax back close to the previous fire tax rate that was in place prior to the tax re-evaluation. Pender County taxes were reevaluated in 2010 or 2011, can’t completely remember the time frame, and the county commissioners decided then to go revenue neutral. This in turn lowered the fire tax rate.

Legeros – Contributing to the spread of misinformation, one blog post at a time…

John Maynard – No harm no foul. I may take a trip down to Pender Co. this weekend and get photos of the current stations before the merger occurs to add to my photo album.

Legeros – Thinking a bit more about this (and/or perhaps willing to demonstrate my industry ignorance at varying levels), there are apples in Person County to our oranges in Wake County. PEMS is both an EMS and a rescue services provider. As noted abovet, this will particularly help with better distribution of rescue capabilities, as some of those fire departments are limited therein. Here, our EMS providers are solely that. Rescue services are delivered exclusively by fire departments. Thus perhaps it’s a stretch to ponder Wake EMS providers getting into/merging into the fire business, versus private agencies that are EMS + rescue services like PEMS.

Robert P. – Pender EMS is a private-non profit third party service that contracts with the county with there own board. Everybody stays private, not county.

Pender – A bit of clarification, Pender EMS and Rescue does provide both EMS and Rescue services. They do this separately with people assigned to the rescue and others assigned to the ambulances. The rescue side does cross train to the EMS side, while the EMS side only cross trains on an individual person basis. Very few EMS techs are trained to be rescue techs. There is a true divide between EMS and Rescue.

Robert P. – I think it is a great. With Woody involved it will be first class Operation.


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