University City

Volunteer fire department responds to last call

Another vestige of our agrarian roots is now gone, as the Mallard Creek Volunteer Fire Department responded to its final emergency call last month.

As the response area of the department shrunk from over 11 square miles to less than 2, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Department stations increased in the immediate area, it made sense for Mallard Creek Volunteer Fire Department to close its doors after 58 years of service, according to Station Chief Kirk Killian.

Established in late 1953 and located in the same building since 1954, the station's mix of volunteer and paid staff members earlier serviced an area running from Harris Boulevard and U.S. 29 to Eastfield Road and to the Mecklenburg County line.

The crews have seen a gradual shift in service calls correlating to the rapid growth of the Mallard Creek area. Originally serving a rural farming community, now the most common service call involves pulling injured people from wrecks on Interstate 85.

"Back when we started," Killian said, "we were fighting barn and brush fires, then we got commercial areas, and now we've got more interstate traffic."

Five Charlotte fire stations now surround the original Mallard Creek service area, leaving only a small island several miles northeast of the station left as the department's coverage area.

"Station Three on Eastfield Road, in two minutes they have a truck on the scene, while we're driving five miles to get there," said Killian, completing his 37th year of volunteer fire service, split between the Newell and Mallard Creek Stations. "It's a no-brainer," as to why the station's service is no longer needed.

Much of the station's equipment and trucks will be transferred to the Huntersville Fire Station, and about a dozen members of the Mallard Creek Volunteer Fire Department current staff of 26 hope to continue their service by transferring to Huntersville or other remaining volunteer corps.

Like most fire departments, the Mallard Creek group has responded to a wide variety of calls.

"Anything from climbing a 35-foot ladder and putting a cat into a bag and coming back down with him, along with interstate incidents like pin-ins and rollovers - that type of incident is more common than anything nowadays," Killian said.

The largest fire for the department was a three-alarm, multistory, multi-family structure on Bonita Lane off West Mallard Creek Church Road, about five years ago. Mallard Creek Volunteer Fire Department had about eight pieces of equipment and Charlotte departments called in for assistance had another 10 to 12 trucks on site.

The fire started on the upper floor and went into the attic, and with no sprinklers there, quickly ran the whole roof. The crew fought the fire for five to six hours then remained on site overnight to ensure that hot spots didn't flare up.

Killian spoke eloquently of the value of the volunteer fire system that has served North Carolina over the years.

"When there's an emergency, people see a red truck, and they don't really care about where it's coming from. Mallard Creek or West Meck or Newell or whoever it is - there are departments like us all over the whole state and each one of them could write the same type story, and it's all about the support for the community.

"We've served the area for over 58 years now and we feel like the community has been grateful for our service and we've been grateful for their support," Killian said.

"We'd just ask that all the people in the community remember all firemen and make way for the red lights and sirens whenever they're responding, because they could be going to your house."