03/21/09 501 W - + 12 - 18 History of Rural Fire Protection

Also from the aforementioned Rural Fire Protection in North Carolina, published in 1977, here's a little history of rural fire protection in our state. It includes legislative milestones, and the organizational forms that rural fire departments can take.

"In North Carolina, rural fire protection is recognized as a function of local government. Historically, fire protection was provided primarily in populated municipalities. But in recent years industrial growth and population spillover into rural areas has increased the need for fire protection outside town and city limits. In response to increasing demands for rural fire protection, legislative provisions have offered organizational alternatives whereby counties or rural communities may establish fire protection.

"The first provisions for county fire service came in 1939 when counties were authorized to contract with municipal departments. In 1945 counties were empowered to establish and maintain their own fire departments. A 1951 statute authorized rural residents to organize rural fire protection districts within which special taxes to support fire services can be levied if such an arrangement is approved by a popular vote of residents in the proposed district.

"The 1973 County Service District Act provided an approach for organizing rural fire protection without a popular vote. County fire protection efforts have been further strengthened in recent years by legislation authorizing the appointment of county fire marshals and by the enactment of county fire prevention codes.

"Any group of concerned rural residents may organize a volunteer fire department by following the provisions of the Nonprofit Corporation Act, (North Carolina General Statute, Chapter 55A). For a small expense, incorporating the fire department has the benefits of freeing the members from legal liability and assures the residents of a perpetual fire fighting organization. These reasons alone make it desirable for new volunteer fire departments to incorporate.

"Volunteer fire departments commonly furnish fire protection for various types of legal districts discussed below. The area serviced by a fire department is generally referred to as a fire district and its boundaries are frequently established by standards of the N. C. Fire Insurance Rating Bureau. The department's legal characteristic as a "nonprofit corporation" remains unchanged. It is therefore governed by the statutes of the Nonprofit Corporation Act rather than by those laws dealing with local governments.

"Because rural areas have a variety of needs and circumstances, organizational forms vary considerably. In rural North Carolina, county fire protection is provided by one or more of the following methods:

Source: Rural Fire Protection in North Carolina, published by the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service in 1977. Excerpts from page 3, "Organizing for rural fire protection." Copied at the State Library of North Carolina. Call number A75 42:2.

From “Fire Protection in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County,” by Philip P. Green Jr., and published in 1949 by the Institute of Government at UNC Chapel Hill, cites the General Statue that empowered sanitary districts to form fire departments.

G.S. 130-39 (13): [ Sanitary district boards have power ] “To establish a fire department for the protection of property within the district, or to contract with cities, counties or other governmental units to furnish fire fighting apparatus and personnel for use in the district.”

Not sure if that GS is included in the above history. Some of the sanitary district fire departments in North Carolina have included Central Falls (Randolph), Kannapolis (Cabarrus), Royal Oaks (Cabarrus), and Yanceyville (Caswell).
Legeros - 03/21/09 - 10:02

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