In mid March of 1958, the mountains surrounding Hominy Valley came alive with anticipation of spring, which was right around the corner. With the still cool temperatures, wood stoves continued to be in use in almost every home. A community was about to be altered by the events that were soon to happen in one particular home. On Upper Glady Fork, Bob Foster was at home. The crisp eary spring nights and continued cold weather made having a fire in the stove a necessity more so than a luxury. The fire in the stove was slowly warming the homestead, transforming the house into a home. A distinctive smell appeared. A fire had begun in the chimney. Moments later it began to consume the house. What was being used as a means to keep the house warm was using the structure as fuel, consuming the structure and its contents. A call was made to the closest fire department. The American Enka Corporation Fire Brigade was about 10 miles and at least 30 minutes away on the, still then, rural highways which were the arteries of the community. Nearby family and neighbors responded to assist Mr. Foster with extinguishing the fire and salvaging anything that could be saved from this blaze. Mr. Foster made two successful trips into his home, each time returning with prized possessions and family heirlooms which would be impossible to replace. With the structure nearly completely engulfed, Mr. Foster remembered that he had some money hidden inside and against better judgment; he returned into the inferno to recover this last possession and never returned.
This senseless death sounded an alarm in the community, and stirred interest in forming our very own fire department, putting an end to unnecessary loss of life and property. The community went to work and started their own fire department and in November of 1959 received their official charter. The American Enka Corporation, employer to a large portion of the community, was eager to assist this nearby community and donated an International tanker to assist in the effort.
Our small department then began to grow, but saw the need for additional equipment and training. The first thing that was brought to the community was the need for a new pumper. The firemen decide that the needs of the community will be best served with a triple combination American Lafrance. This vehicle could be acquired for the low price of $11,100.00. The next step for procuring this apparatus would be paying for it. This sizeable purchase would definitely test the abilities of the firefighters of Upper Hominy. Community drives, bake sales, raffles, and auctions were used to gather the down payment of over $2000.00 dollars that was raised for the 1961 Ford Engine. In March 1961, this apparatus began its service to the community. The department gained the use of an old 5/4 ton military vehicle which was converted by the volunteers for a rescue vehicle. The Upper Hominy Volunteer fire department was first rated by the state of North Carolina and ISO as a class 9 in 1962.
A Permanent Home
Ray Davis, the Fire Chief at that time, was a local storeowner and constructed a building behind his store for the department to use for storing the equipment, and meetings and training drills were held inside of the store. With the equipment and training off to a good start to protect the citizens of the community, the firefighters then began focusing their attention on a station to house the fire department’s equipment and a more suitable place to have meetings and training drills. Land was acquired and construction followed through 1964 to build the main station at 1750 Pisgah Highway. In 1967 the building was completed and the firefighters moved into their new station. This property was used until 2010 when construction of our new fire station was completed.
Home 1967 - 2009
Paying for a Fire Department was an expensive undertaking. Paying for apparatus and a building, utilities to keep the building warm during the freezing months, lights to illuminate the building at night, and everything that comes with running a fire station was a hefty undertaking for the firefighters. The firefighters were known to take money from their pockets to put fuel in the truck so it would be full for the next emergency. It was presented to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to support this not-for-profit agency with a Fire Tax. What would this fire tax do? It would alleviate the need for so much fund-raising and allow for better equipment and more training. This in turn, would allow for better trained firefighters in the community, decreasing the amount of homeowners insurance by as much as thirty percent. So to the polls we went. The ordinance was passed by a margin of 234 for the tax and 134 against. The fire department now had a tax base in which to operate. This referendum would stand as funding for the department for the next ten years at which time it returned to the ballots and passed again.
The next years were spent with the firefighters improving their skills through training, with our first EMT being trained in 1972 in Haywood County. Building a tanker in the station and purchasing a new engine in 1979, helped to improve equipment. These trucks were paid for the day that they entered the fire station and were free and clear of debt. It was obvious that the department was full of firemen with the know-how and how-to that comes from a group of self starters who know what they want and were willing to work to get it.
In 1983, the county had many areas of "no-man’s-land". These areas were basically unprotected by fire departments and were afforded protection by near-by departments. However, the insurance companies did not recognize these people being in a fire district so the Upper Hominy district was upgraded from a 4 mile district to a 5 mile district, re-chartered and renamed The Upper Hominy Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Inc. In 2006, our fire district was increased from a 5 mile district to a 6 mile fire district; encompassing the “no man’s land” sub-district we took over in 1983.
Through the Years
Countless fires, medical emergencies, two plane crashes, a flood, and numerous rescues have forged this department into what it is today. A strong resource, which added a new sub-station in 1986, extending the fire district to a 5-mile district, providing better coverage for the Beaverdam area of the district and giving our department the largest district allowed at that time in the state.
How we serve you now… We provide fire protection to the community with a split district. Insurance classification 6 in areas that are within 1000 feet of a hydrant and classification 9 in areas that do not have hydrants. The department provides medical aid in the form of First Responders at the Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate level.
We operate a Light Duty Rescue Vehicle (Rescue 12) that is equipped for Vehicle Extrication; High and Low angle rescue, Fire Support, and also serves as a secondary EMT-Intermediate QRV (Quick Response Vehicle).
Since our beginning, we have added to our fleet of vehicles--a 1986 FMC Pumper-Tanker,Engine 12-3, a 2000 International All-Wheel-Drive KME Pumper-Tanker, Engine 12. In 2012, our 1979 Ford/Grumman-Howe engine, Engine 12-2, was replaced with a 2012 International/Pierce Pumper-Tanker and put in to service on May 19th, 2012. Due to good budget management over the years, this vehicle was put in service free and clear of any debt. The 1979 Engine was decommissioned at this time and was eventually sold to a collector in Michigan.
To better serve residents which live in a Wildland Urban Interface area, we operate Squad 12, a 1990 Boardman mini-pumper. In 2004, we replaced our 1985 Dodge truck with a slip on brush unit with a new custom brush truck, Brush 12.
To respond to the many medical emergencies in the community, we operate two EMT-Intermediate level QRV’s (Quick Response Vehicles). The Primary vehicle utilized is TAC 12 with Rescue 12 providing secondary response. We have a quick response by Buncombe EMS, this benefit of paramedic level care and transport allows our First Responders to remain in the district to answer the next call for help.
The 1961 American Lafrance was donated in 1997 to Country Fire Department in Madison County. Since that time, Country Fire Department sold the 1961 American LaFrance to a private individual who planned to convert it to a logging truck. In 2008, this truck was purchased from this individual and was still in working condition. It is currently in storage, pending restoration as a piece of Upper Hominy history.
A New Home
In the fall of 2006, the Board of Directors formed a land search committee to find property to build a new station to replace the 1967 building we were currently operating out of. Within two weeks, a “For Sale” sign went up on property less than a quarter of a mile from the current station. We negotiated with the property owner to purchase approximately 5 acres of this horse shoe shaped property. Within a month, one of the owners of property within this horse shoe put their property up for sale; so we negotiated to purchase this property. Feeling that the remaining piece within the horse shoe was vital for a complete property; the Board negotiated to purchase this as well. With this purchase, Upper Hominy had adequate land to build a new fire station and have room for any future expansion. Once commitment of financing was obtained and an architect chosen, planning and work began on the new station of The Upper Hominy Volunteer Fire & Rescue Dept. The new fire station was completed and ready for occupation in our 50th year. This new facility was planned and constructed to last at least 75 years. Along with numerous upgrades and improvements, we would no longer have to sleep in a make shift bunk room built in the bays, walk through the bays and around a truck to take a shower, fit three people in an office built for one nor would we have to build a fire truck small enough to fit through the bay doors.
We would like to encourage members of our community to become part of the history of this department. With the community as a part of our history, the possibilities are endless as to what we can accomplish for the future.