BOONVILLE — The Boonville Community Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 75th anniversary on Dec. 3. Elected officials from the town of Boonville as well as Yadkin County were present for the event, along with past and current members of the Boonville Fire Department.
The department was the first fire department in Yadkin County. Past fire chiefs and current Chief J.R. Shore, of the Boonville Fire Department, were presented commemorative badges. A lapel pin and T-shirt commemorating 75 years of service also were distributed to those in attendance. An informational sign was presented at the celebration as well.
“The town of Boonville is full of history and character that needs to be shared,” said Town Administrator Sarah Harris. “I am glad we were able to partner with the Boonville Fire Department to unveil the informational sign at the ceremony. The sign will be displayed after the new year, outside the Harvey E. Smith Municipal Building. The history of the town is, in part, what gives Boonville its charm and I hope we can continue to find other meaningful ways to preserve our town’s history.”
Shore said, “During the 75 years of service, the Boonville Community Volunteer Fire Department has gone through many changes.”
He noted many of the changes in regard to equipment that was used in the past and newer equipment and training the firefighters now take part in to most effectively battle a fire.
“There is one aspect of the fire department that has not changed in the 75 years of service to the community, which is ‘to protect property and save lives,’” Shore added.
History of the Boonville Community Volunteer Fire Department
The Boonville Community Volunteer Fire Department was founded in 1941 as the first volunteer fire department in Yadkin County. Through the years leading up to 1952, the fire department was not recognized in an official capacity by the state until certain requirements were met. These requirements included having 1,000 feet of 2 ½-inch hose, two straight nozzles, six rain coats, two ladders, a siren and a minimum of two wheel trailers.
Recognized for the first time by the state of North Carolina, the first official Boonville Community Fire Department fire chief was appointed in 1952 when the Town Board called a meeting. Attending this meeting was the fire chief from the town of Elkin, who expressed the need for someone to attend the Fire School in Charlotte. During the meeting, Harvey Smith was nominated to be the fire chief of the Boonville Community Volunteer Fire Department. After attending Fire School, Smith attended the next 25 years of annual conventions.
In 1955, the first fire truck for the fire department was handmade for a total cost of $2,600. The first “official” fire truck was purchased in 1959 for just less than $10,000. Because there were no hand-held radios, the fire department purchased six telephones which were installed in designated firefighter homes. When the fire department’s number was dialed, all six phones rang simultaneously to notify the responders of an emergency. When the information was dispersed through the main six lines, it was common for the wives of the firefighters to call the other volunteers of the fire department and provide them with the information needed to respond to the call. Upon the purchase of the official fire truck, the Boonville Community Volunteer Fire Department responded to calls within a 20-mile radius, including Surry County.
During this time, there was not a fire tax designated to financially support the fire department. Volunteer firefighters would go door to door, both inside and outside the Boonville town limits, requesting donations. But due to financial constraints, the department also sought additional funding sources for other needs. Pasteboard helmets were donated by International Harvester.
A FEMA grant was used to purchase a siren, which is still active today. It is a piece of history located at the Harvey E. Smith Municipal Building. Other equipment, such as turnout gear, was purchased through the city of Winston-Salem. Through donations and alternative funding sources, the Boonville Community Fire Department has been able to sustain itself throughout the years.
Before it was remodeled, the Harvey E. Smith Municipal Building was the location of the fire station and housed the fire trucks and a small office. In 1996, Ralph Hamby donated land at 207 S. Carolina Ave. where a new fire station was built. As of 2016, the Boonville Volunteer Fire Department resides at this location. It has seven pieces of equipment that provides water; assists with brush fires, and structure fires; and basic life support equipment used by medical first responders.