Firefighting is a calling

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By Chris Sardelli

The life of a volunteer firefighter isn’t easy.  Speak to any volunteer and they’ll tell you about the constant training, late night phone calls and missed family events, all done to protect the lives and property of neighbors and strangers alike.

And with no compensation, this isn’t just a job for these volunteers – it’s a calling.

That calling has become even more difficult over the last decade for Indian Land’s volunteers, as the Panhandle has quickly swelled into a bustling suburb of Charlotte.  

Raymond Griffin, chief of the Indian Land Volunteer Fire Department, said he and his crew are responding to more calls than ever before.

Their coverage area, once cotton fields and cow pastures, is now packed with new homes, corporate headquarters and shopping centers.

Volunteers must now adapt their training to the changing environment. Pleasant Valley department Chief Greg Nicholson, a 27-year volunteer, never imagined five-story buildings would exist in his district. Today volunteers not only train how to scale those buildings, they’re learning everything from vehicular extrications to water rescues.

Members of the Charlotte Road/Van Wyck department are experiencing the area’s growth first hand, as the number of vehicles traveling along S.C. 5 in their coverage area has surged. So much so, that chief Craig Roof said they often respond to more calls for medical assistance at crashes than they do for fires.

Despite this increase in workloads or the threat of injury, these volunteers are dedicated. Each volunteer is armed with a treasure trove of stories involving tragedy and triumph, of family and friends. They mark their days and years not with numbers, but with memories of various blazes fought, accidents responded to and lives saved.  And if you ask them about the amount of time they’ve volunteered, they say they’d do it all over again.