THE BUNYAN VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
IN WASHINGTON, NC
The Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department in Washington, NC is one of the most professionally run organizations with which I have ever had the pleasure to be associated. As a younger man, I had the opportunity to join this fire department in the mid-1980s and continue to fondly remember the time I spent there. There is also more than a little pride in being associated with this group of elite firemen.
Herman Cutler was the Chief there during the entire time I was active and Travis Sullivan was the Assistant Chief. Both enjoyed joking around better than most and many, including yours truly, were the brunt of some “award winning” practical jokes. Some might still remember the night I received the “anonymous” phone call during the meeting. The 25-30 firemen present all knew what was coming…..except me. Nuff said!!!!
But, in the midst of all the fun, an amazing amount of the necessary business associated with a still relatively young fire department was conducted. After the meeting, each team would go to our assigned fire truck and give it a THOROUGH inventory and inspection. Missing or deficient items were attended to so we would be ready for our next fire call. Speaking of being ready for the next call, many times Travis Sullivan was the first fireman to reach the station during a night fire call. I was always amazed how fast he got there. Now, I know that his house was really close to the station, but I really think he slept with his fire boots on!
We were exposed to almost constant training during my tenure at the Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department in Washington, NC and I’m sure they still are today. I still remember much of the training, but admittedly some of the “numbers” such as the line loss in a 1 1/2″ hose are distant memory. One of the “must remembers” was to cheat to the front of the line on CPR Training night (mouth to mouth portion) JUST as soon as the CPR dummy was put down……if you didn’t chew tobacco!!!!! There was a fair amount of classroom training but most of the fun stuff was in the field. There was also some borderline scary, albeit necessary, training.
For example, on one pleasant summer evening we climbed up one side of a fairly tall extension ladder that was held as near vertical, as possible, by four (4) groups of firemen at opposing corners with long, heavy ropes. Once we reached the very top of the ladder, we were directed to step over the top rung of the ladder and make a “controlled” decent down the other side. “Controlled” being the key word! After finishing, I still remember what the ground tasted like when I kissed it!
During this time, some highly anticipated training was discussed for some time at the meetings and it was referred to a the “smoke house.” Now at my grandfathers house on the farm, the smoke house was where we kept the curing country hams. Based on this recollection, I was really looking forward to the “smoke house,” anticipating some ham, biscuits and maybe a little red-eye gravy.
Imagine my shock to learn that the “smoke house” really referred to the controlled burning of an old farmhouse (at the request of the owners) as a training exercise. “What, no biscuits, no red-eye gravy?” We arrive at the “smoke house” early on a Saturday morning and donned our turn out gear with air packs. The building would be set on fire using wheat straw, diesel fuel and old wooden pallets. The newer firemen would beat the fire down first and it would be repeatedly reset with more experienced firemen going later/last.
I was one of the first firemen into the burning house, led by very experienced Captain Vic Williams. Instead of going into the heavily burning room with the hoses spraying, we crawled in, staying low, and watched the fire patterns lapping on the ceiling over our heads. The second lesson was watching how quickly just a little water created enough steam to knock down the fire. After the fire was rebuilt, Vic carried our group in one more time with the home closed to teach us how to follow the fire hose out of a building with little or no visibility. This training continued with more and more experienced firemen until only the chimney was standing.
A REAL FIRE
Fast forward a few years, to when a home adjacent to my business caught fire late at night. I was not active then but Bunyan’s response time to the fire was exceptional. The home was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived. A storage building of mine, which housed all my tools, a tractor, air compressor, etc., was very close to the burning house. An aluminum storage shed, associated with the burning home was about 4′ from my storage building. The fire and heat were so intense that the aluminum shed melted, but absolutely no damage was done to my building. What a job they did that night! I wrote a letter to the editor of the “Pulitzer Prize Winning” Washington Daily News, soon thereafter singing their praise.
KEEP THESE VOLUNTEERS IN YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS
Through the year I try to say thanks to these people for volunteering their time and money to fulfill such an absolute necessity in rural areas. I encourage everyone to participate in the fundraisers held by all of these entities. The Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department in Washington, NC will hold its annual series of “Turkey Shoots” starting shortly. Watch for them at the Bunyan Fire Station on Highway 264 E on Friday evenings from November 1st through December 6th. You can rest assured that this department will appreciate it and your money will be well spent.
I have been attending the Survivors Series Rodeo in Williamston, NC in the Spring for the past several years. This really fun event is a fundraiser for the Old Ford Volunteer Fire Department near Washington. There are numerous BBQ dinners and various other fundraisers scattered around. I encourage you to watch for these events and join in. You’ll be glad you did, whether you ever see smoke at your house or not! The Bunyan Volunteer Fire Department in Washington, NC would love to help!