RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Fire departments in Randolph County are feeling the pressure as more people move to the area. It’s leading some departments to make tough choices to be there when you call for help.
People living in Level Cross and northern more rural parts of the county are anticipating a strain from the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite.
“We’ve been told in the next seven years, there could be an influx of 80,000 people or so, and that’s … a whole lot for the small area we have around here,” said David Ridgeway, chief of the Level Cross Volunteer Fire Department.
That means more houses, more cars on the road and more emergencies.
“When we run a call, I’ll be on it, and I can break away and run the second call. We’ve had three, four calls at a time,” Ridgeway said.
Level Cross has seen a 12% increase in calls each year.
Calls for the East Side Volunteer Fire Department jumped by 100 in the last three years, adding up to just shy of 1,200 calls in 2022. Firefighters are anticipating an even greater increase in calls as more people move to the area to live and work near Wolfspeed.
“What ends up happening is we start to rely more and more on paid staff. The volunteers just aren’t there like they used to be,” said Eric Hoffman, chief of the East Side Volunteer Fire Department.
East Side used to be a 100% volunteer department. They now have eight full-time paid positions and anticipate they will need to add more, leading to tough choices on how to budget.
Hoffman also serves as the president of the Randolph County Fire Chiefs Association. He says mutual aid from other departments is helping to fill in the gaps during growing calls and staffing shortages.
County Commissioners are actively talking to fire departments across Randolph County about how the growth will affect them.
Ridgeway is already planning five to ten years down the road, looking at the possibility of adding more paid personnel or a substation to get ahead of demand.
“You’ve got to change. If you’re sitting stagnant, your department is going to get passed by and you’re not going to do what you need to for the citizens of your district,” Hoffman said.
Both Ridgeway and Hoffman tell FOX 8 that the best way to help is to reach out to a local fire department and see if you can fill an open position if you feel called.
They said working at the department doesn’t always mean running inside a burning building and staffing support roles help them get to calls more efficiently.