By Nic Quance

(L to R) Chief Frank Carter, Captain Cameron Cheppell, Lieutenant C.J. Dwiggins, Firefighter Joshua Collins, and Firefighter Chris Shoffner were instrumental in helping the Mocksville Fire Department achieve its heavy rescue certification. The hydraulic cutter & spreader, AJAX pneumatic breaker, metal saws and rope gear bags on the table represent a portion of the $50,000 worth of equipment the certification required.

When disaster strikes, many of us don’t think twice about the availability and capability of our first responders. However, the hard-working people behind the scenes are constantly making sure that these emergency services are ready for anything. It’s no small feat to accomplish this; rigorous training and equipment go into an outstanding first responder service, particularly a renowned fire department.

Frank Carter, Chief of the Mocksville Fire Department, shared about the certifications and preparation that went into achieving this goal, including the department’s new certifications; heavy rescue and machinery & agricultural. The heavy rescue certification signifies that the department has the tools, equipment, and trained personnel to mitigate incidents involving things like bus accidents, heavy machinery incidents, and tractor-trailer accidents, to name a few. The additional machinery & agricultural certification indicates that the fire department’s personnel are prepared for the most common injuries and accidents that occur with farm equipment, including patient stabilization and extrication. 

“We set a goal to become heavy rescue certified and it has been an ongoing process for probably the last five or six years. We budgeted over that time to obtain the heavy rescue equipment and have invested over $50,000. Along the way, we obtained multiple other certifications as well, beginning with confined space certification to support the Town’s public works department. They were going into sewer maintenance holes and other areas below ground performing maintenance and other work. At the time, there was really nobody providing a rescue service for those folks in the event of an accident. That might have been ten years ago,” said Carter, who has been with the MFD since 1988, was promoted to a chief officer position in 2003, and currently serves as the fire chief for the department.

Achieving this has been no minor matter, the training time that is involved is immense. The basic technical rescue certification for each member is 120 hours, then the specialty areas such as confined space, machinery & agricultural, and rope certification represent over 400 hours of additional training. With COVID-19 supply chain issues, along with intense training required, this process has taken a lot of time and patience. 

Although it has been a long process, Lieutenant C.J. Dwiggins, who has overseen each step, says it has been rewarding. “We hope we can enhance our level of service for the citizens.” 

Heavy rescue certification completes the arsenal of certifications that ensure the department can handle anything that is thrown at it. The Mocksville Fire Department has always sought out ways to better serve the community with proper training and equipment. As a result, the department is now certified for confined space, high angle, medium rescue, heavy rescue, medical response, and machinery & agricultural rescue. 

Hazmat and Decontamination Training

Carter commented on the significance of the certifications, “It’s nice to have the certification but it’s more of a validation of the department and its members’ commitment to serving the needs of the community. The NC Rescue Association has set the standards, and we have met those standards. It makes sure you’re not practicing outside of your scope… We do this for redundancy within the county. The Davie County Rescue Squad is the primary rescue organization for the county, but if they are committed to an incident in another part of the county, I, as the fire chief, want to make sure my district and others are protected and we can fully support the rescue squads efforts and provide mutual aid to them… if we have the equipment and personnel to manage an incident here, we may as well do that.”

Mocksville Town Manager Ken Gamble appreciates the MFD’s efforts. “The Town is proud of Chief Carter and his leadership in developing the heavy rescue program for the fire department. The program will increase an already impressive array of services provided by the dedicated firefighters serving the Town of Mocksville.”

With heavy rescue under their belt, the Mocksville Fire Department is undoubtedly a do-it-all department, with many skills and resources that the public may not think has anything to do with their local fire department.

“We respond to medical issues, as everyone is an EMT here, so we provide first response medical assistance. We respond to traffic accidents, grass fires, car fires, structure fires, and hazmat; we run a technician level hazmat team that provides that service to the entire county,” said Carter.

Hazmat Training

With the fire department meeting such outstanding goals, it’s important to remember the roots of the department to observe the progress made for the community.

“Predominantly, years ago, it was a full volunteer service. It operated under the town as the fire department, and to the best of my knowledge, it was founded in 1877,” Carter explained, “We are transitioning to volunteerism going away and into becoming paid service. We have many part-time staff now. We try to man the station 24/7, but there are some shortages we’re dealing with, so we don’t have full coverage, but our volunteers still come when they can. Today, for example, we’ve already had five calls. This is just one of those days it was busy.”

Volunteerism is still a critical component of the operation, and Chief Carter wanted to make sure that the call for volunteers does not go unheard. “We need volunteers. Unfortunately, volunteerism is a dying thing these days. People’s lives are too busy, and the demand for service has gone up so much. The training and certification required are hard on a volunteer to manage with families and other commitments. When I first started, there was a lot of industry here that would let people leave work to respond to a call, but that’s not the case anymore. Times have just changed.”

Despite the difficulties and obstacles, the Mocksville Fire Department is committed to selfless acts for the community and the surrounding area. With these certifications comes even more responsibility outside of just Mocksville. Carter explained, “once you acquire certifications, you are on a resource list, state-wide if you’re ever needed.”

Surrounding areas can call upon our local emergency workers in the event that their skills are needed for adequate assessment of the emergency. This kind of selflessness is what takes the Mocksville Fire Department to the next level, truly going above and beyond to keep us safe, even in the most unprecedented of times.