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SURF CITY, NC (WWAY) — After more than 46 years on the job, a Pender County F
fire department finds itself at a crossroads.

Members of the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department say they found out last week the county plans to end its contract for their service, giving members a tough decision to make.

The members of the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department met Monday evening to vote on the department’s future. A future that is still unclear.

For the men and women of Fire Station 1200 saving lives is their way of life.

“This is a family. We are dedicated to one another. We are fireman. We run into fires, not away from fires and you have to depend on your brother. You don’t have a choice but to depend on your brother. We have a strong brotherhood here and we are bound together,” said David Garten.

Monday evening 53 members of the department came together to discuss their future.

“I think we are going to try and merge with Pender EMS. As a group we decided that tonight, but we are hoping to get something a little better from the county officials and see what is going to happen from there,” said Paul Werkmeister.

Both Garten and Werkmeister are members of the volunteer fire department.

Several options on the table included merging with Pender EMS, merging with the Town of Surf City Fire Department or even shutting their doors for good.

“We want the citizens here in this district to know what’s going on. Don’t keep it a secret from them. Let them know. We want the county commissioners to come here and meet with us. Let’s all be honest with one another,” said Garten.

Rep. Mike McIntyre presented the department with a federal grant Monday, which would let them buy much needed equipment.

If the department merges with Pender EMS all the departments equipment maybe sold to cover more than $400,000 in outstanding debt.

Comment on this Story

  • tax payer

    Ok listen here you are missing the point I am making, a lot of fire departments now don’t want anyone that is not fire 1 cert to go into a fire because of the lack of training and so many people getting hurt they want them to have the training before hand period. actually my house has burnt down for that information a long time ago and three departments that came there messed up big time due to lack of communication. first they need to be able to work with the other departments during training and they cant even do that. none of the departments can get along enough to the training they need to. everyone wants to talk about a brotherhood and they are a brotherhood if they were half of the brotherhood they claim to be they would work together but the real question is when you have someone in charge that isn’t even firefighter 1 and 2 cert what does that say to the members

  • SCVFD member

    Do you think it justifies to keep on with this? No matter what your opinion is its just an opinion. Please for the sake of our dignity, your dignity, and our district or county, please stop. I know a lot of people have a grudge with meatball, but this is past him. A lot of Good people including public, are going get hurt because of this. People are verbally attacking people and calling people out on facebook. A High ranking officer has verbally attacked members and public. I mean does anyone know no bound. People need to realize this is a part of politics, sometimes we elected people to screw us over, it happens. This is a chance for two stations to come together and build a “community” fire department, one for the people, by the people. But here is an idea, and not once was this talked about, If the community wants to keep 1200 how about we all get together and show the commissioners on the 17th that this fire departments blood runs deep. If there are ones who want the merge to hurry and happen then show up on the 17th and show support for a greater unity. Simple as that. If you don’t want to show up on the 17th then why are you expressing an opinion where it wont make a difference. Isnt that whats wrong with this great nation now? Train of thought. GOD Bless us all and Bless The U.S.A.

  • lives in district

    Fyi for everyone who says $400,000 of debt is a lot is obviously not in the fire service. That is minimal for a fire dept. The thing about there debt is that they are not behind on any payments. A typical fire truck by itself is over $500,000. So tell me how $400,000 is a lot of debt for a fire dept. When other fire depts in the area are at 2 million combined in debt give or take. One local fire dept is in over a million in debt and they go out and buy a$50,000 kitchen. Thats crazy spending. How is that helping the people we serve. Ever dollar spent by surf city is for the good of the community and have great impact on the people we serve. As far as leadership goes surf city has one of the greatest chiefs in the area. As far as only 1 or 2 qualified firefighter on the roster is far from the truth. Almost everyone on the roster are qualified interior firefighters except the ones who are new to the dept as we try to grow. Just goes to show you that because of the actions in the last 10 years by the other 2 local depts and there wrong doing the innocent dept is the one to suffer. As a tax payerof surf city I am not asking from insight from the ones outside of the district. I am seeking the insight of the ones who live in this district, who have seen the dept grow from where it started to where it is today, and the people who have needed there services. Those are the people who like me need to let the county aware that we are not ok with this change. Stay stronh surf city vol. Brighter days are ahead.

  • fredrick gram

    I think this will be a good move for both fire departments there are a lot of great people on both. I bet if this move happens this will become an unstoppable department. there will be no greater fire protection on the east side of the county. scvfd has great members and great officers and leaders of the department, who are any of you to judge them like yall don’t make bad mistake in your decisions. these a great guys both paid and volunteer. theses guys do a lot for our community. this will be a great move for the fire service of these to departments.

  • Guest 0201

    OK when something of yours is on fire are you gonna ask whose certified to go save your things no I don’t think.

  • Guest 3612

    Apparently it is because your reading and commenting on it

  • someone who pays taxes to the fire department

    The person that is posting from wilmington is right you don’t run into fire.. but you guys only have a few firefighters that are even qualified to go into fires and you tell me how that’s helping the fire department its actually harming others. I know they tried to race to get to scenes first and a lot of the people there do not get treated equally you tell me how that’s fair and professional. It seems like that fire department just wants publicity and wants to start drama between the County and the fire department and other fire departments

  • local volunteer of SCVFD

    I am very disappointed in my volunteer brothers holding a grudge like this. This has been taken way out of context. No one said paid was better than volunteer. No one was ever saying anything was wrong with the volunteers of anywhere or anything. How dare any volunteer tell anyone to show respect. You are way out of line. And this Lacie person are you even out of the third grade, can you even spell? maybe you need to learn to write to sound a little more business like. Keep the negative to yourself, no one has any reason to tell the public how to feel, or what to do, you made yourself look very uneducated. our district is important to me also, but no reason to beat a dead horse. We as members of that station let it happen to ourselves. WE MADE THE WRONG DESCISIONS and we let our leaders do it to, we could have stopped it, we still could. The fact is we are looking at the inevitable its only a matter of time, its been that way for the past 9 years I am no rookie and I am a 1 & 2 cert along with many more certs. So when the SCVFD charter is gone, im not going to complain as what the rest are doing now, im going to still serve this district because I do care that much. I know it hurt to have the station pulled right out from under us it hurts, it was our home. however the TRUE brothers at SCVFD should realize all fire departments are our brothers too, so if you disbelieve that then maybe your not a real brother. so brothers lets put on our big boy pants, and stop this endless pile, and be there for our community NO MATTER WHAT. Don’t let your (know better) down. And to be honest anyone one who thinks there not allowed or going to be allowed to volunteer somewhere else should actually try to do so first. There are too many Volunteer stations around to not find home in one of them, also there is no need to blame anyone other than the SOUL MEMBERSHIP AT SCVFD, the Board, the Officers, and even including myself.

  • Wilmington Observer

    In your, incoherent, post you tried to say something about firemen running into fires to put them out. I am not a fireman, never have been and never will be. Fire scares me, therefore I know that I would be a disservice to the profession. But, one thing that I have learned, from friends who are (professional – both paid and volunteer) firemen is that a fireman never runs into a fire. A fireman, calmly, methodically, purposefully and cautiously, WALKS towards a fire as he inventories his surroundings.

    I think that the, “jump off the truck, grab a hose and run into a burning building like a bunch of ants who have just discovered a dropped piece of sandwich” mentality (and witnessed actions) is one of the reasons that your agency has the reputation that it has.

    One last observation that I’ve made about the firefighters that I’ve known over the years……. they have a, strong enough, command of the English language to be able to write a paragraph (about most anything) and anyone who reads it will know exactly what they have just read.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Someone who pays taxes to that Fire Dept

    If its such a great Fire Department then why is this all going on as a tax payer I am concerned that the chief isn’t speaking out and its just the fire Departments members that really haven’t been there that long. I’m pretty sure the people that are speaking out have been a firefighter… how many burning houses, wrecks, or water rescue calls have you been on?? Its not that people is judging the department its people judging what’s going on in the dept. I am a firefighter and if they need new gear then why in the world are they wanting to get new trucks and stuff that they don’t need?? since its in the paper it must be true, or it would be a form of slander, I don’t think the news reporters would put themselves in that position. all of them from that department are just trying to cover up for the chief that’s what I’m guessing, the chief putting that department in the hole. as a tax payer I am honestly wanting the town to take over I’ve been saying that for a while because honestly there isn’t a lot of firefighters that are one and two cert there. I mean who goes to PA to get a truck that you guys don’t need… evidently you guys don’t need the gear that bad if they are wanting to get a new truck.. I am so fed up with this department they need to step back and look at what’s going to make the community better and make them look better and that station is looking pretty bad and I mean you guys don’t even run a lot of calls a lot of the other people don’t even want you guys showing up on their scenes because you guys cant work them at all! and I would say why would you call it a budget most would call it bankruptcy. but then again evidently you have a 1st rate mouth with a third rate professionalism. and I know you are volunteers but that don’t mean you cant be professional. Oh excuse me ya’ll are NOT professional AT ALL

  • Wilmington Observer

    Your posts are NOT helping your cause.

    Wilmington Observer

  • jj

    Wow, 400,000 in outstanding debt. You “group of guys” need to raise your dues..

  • Lacie

    Oh by the way just because it in the paper doesn’t mean its true so y’all want to go bye here say and judge our department and I’m sure none of you have the personal experience to b a fire fighter and there are more than two great fire fighters OH AND BY THE WAY THEY ARE VOULEENTER they don’t get paid it take an awesome and brave person to run in fires and put them out and all they ask in return is respect they don’t ask for money and by the way they do need gear and things to protect themselves that were money goes so really you can kick rocks

  • Wilmington Observer

    For many, many, years this department has had the reputation of being the “Red Headed Step-Child” of Surf City and the other fire departments of the area.

    For all of you who are raising, or have raised step children (with red hair) there is no need to lambast me with your responses. I’m sure that your children are the best, in the world, and you love them, as if they were your own.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Pender Resident

    LOL that was funny.

  • Shelby

    I know some of these fire fighters personally and for you to say there are only one or two “real fire fighters” is deff NOT true! These men and women work there butts off to make sure their community is taken care of and they deserve to be kept open. Maybe before you speak your opinion you should get to know the fire department and they people who work for it before you decide who is and is not a “real” fire fighter.

  • local

    I do think that a better legit coverage is better than, a ‘group of guys’ debt. Really how do you say that we need that coverage with debt and buying unnessary equipment to run a department who has really only a very FEW no more than one or two real firefighters. sounds like they are hiding a few other things.

  • Proud Volunteer Fire Fighter

    I am a volunteer fire fighter and as for being told I am not a real fire fighter because I am not PAID…The public and community I live in being protected is PAY enough for me. I spend my time training and learning to do my job better to better serve my community…on top of holding a full time job and taking care of my own household.My family stands with me 100% in what I do…I don’t need to be paid…what do you do? Sincerely, A REAL fire fighter!!!

  • Re-think it

    Unless I am miss informed I know that there are only a FEW people there that are 1&2 certified and out of those only 1 or 2 have actual experience other than putting on gear and standing outside a fire. Before you call yourselves Firefighters why don’t you actually become one or you could call yourselves volunteers that’s really all you are because a REAL fire fighter wouldn’t have commented on such. Actions speak louder than words that’s the reason YOU WONT HAVE A STATION. you cant embrace yourself with what someone else does. ANYONE can go to a collage and get the certs but only courage makes a firefighter so embrace the courage and stand for what’s RIGHT and what’s right isn’t anywhere in the stations LEADERSHIP so until you take of the blind fold that MR BATTS put over your eyes maybe you should sit down and think of a few different excuses of WHY THE REAL FIREFIGHTER BROTHERHOOD is tired of that station. SCVFD BROTHERHOOD, it really only goes as far as right in front of there face. I have never meet a station that is as much against another as SCVFD, that station slanders TOWN OF SURF CITY, SLOOP POINT, HAMPSTEAD, PENDER EMS (WOODEY)AND ETC. SO tell me and everyone else why should anyone outside those walls fight to keep you, all that will happen is give you the opportunity to stab a few more backs. And if you really do care about your community then why don’t you volunteer with the station that’s going to cover it. Plus why volunteer for recognition? To me the way you stated it that’s all your there for! Volunteer goes deeper than you

  • Guest2020

    There was a fella just the other day saying that it was the paid firefighters who weren’t the real ones, and I will tell you what I told him. The volunteers risk their lives the same as the paid ones. I have needed the assistance of firemen two times in my life-once for a house fire when I was ten and the other was a car fire eighteen years ago. I didn’t ask who was being paid and who was volunteering. I was grateful that they were there. And I don’t suppose that if your house catches on fire that you will tell the dispatcher to ask the volunteers to stay home.

  • Vog46

    Boy this is a tough nut to crack.
    On one hand I like the idea of volunteerism and the spirit of volunteer firefighters everywhere. They typically provide a great service and the members get a great deal of satisfaction out of serving their community.
    On the other hand – and in this particular case, I wonder.
    Surf City has grown greatly over the years. More growth equals more fires and given where they are at (the coast) the houses are bigger and more expensive.
    Pender County, as a whole has also experienced record growth over the last decade.
    Perhaps its time to become a paid, full time fire department – however, once you do that then you are suspect to all sorts of regulations, requirements, and training which sometimes hurts the volunteer fire departments who are not prepared for such things.
    It is sad when you realize a way of life is disappearing before your eyes.
    But 70%+ of our population lives along the coast. The houses are bigger and more expensive – as are the insurance policies that cover those structures. It is unfortunately, boiling down to money.
    But these guys are handling it professionally, wanting everything out in the open. Good for them.


  • Ex-Volunteer

    Hello all ( members & public) First off to say the Word ( Volunteer) has alot of meaning to it, For some to say bad/rude things is ( Judging) old saying is ( Listen before you Jump) and I notice some of you here are quickly judging them…..I’am an ex-member of SCVFD and to see whats being said I feel ( First) you need to understand all Volunteer Fire Dpets have their problems, but always be honest with the public and the taxpayers….( Second) To Judge a Fire Dept by what you heard is a bad idea read & listen to the facts…( Third) Pray!!! Pray for the members and the station for blessings and healing to come solve the problem…
    I still have respects for All ( Career & Volunteer) Fire Dept’s and so to say its a sad thing its come to this, but sometime just best to pick-up and move-on…..other Fire Dept’s will cover the area and still provide protection to the public of Pender County…..And if they get shut-down then so be, its up to the County Commissionors what will happen…..God Bless & Pray!!!!!

  • Surf City Local

    To me it seems it would be hard for you to judge people on someone who KEYWORD volunteers to risk their lives day and night. ive lived in surf city all my life and have even been to surf city vol fire dept alot the times. ive seen this volunteer fire dept get to fire scenes faster than other PAID fire depts. To get rid of a department of these brave people would be insane. red headed step child or not. These people are professionals at what they do. How about show some respect.


    I also know many FIREFIGHTERS within this organization(SCVFD) and I’ll start off with those “group of guys” in reference to a previous comment, are the group of guys who work 40+ hours a week and then put in countless hours throughout the week towards responding to emergency calls, attending training locally, and attending training through the community college in order to seek self improvement and to better serve their community. That group of guys are the ones that show up in mass numbers at 1 A.M. for a call with the thought not even crossing their minds that they have to be up at 4 A.M. for a full work day. The only thought they carry during that time is that someone, somewhere, needs help, and it’s their responsibilty to provide that. That group of guys is the same group that put in over 80 hours (of there own time, not paid time) to receive Emergency Medical Responder training/certifications and again, only to better serve the community. The Volunteers who serve the many communities and areas within our county display courage and selflessness that is displayed by very few and are taking for granted by many, by those who have yet to need a Volunteers services. When the time comes and your loved one or someone you hold dear to your heart is in desperate need of help I am willing to bet when you call 911 that your not going to request a paid “real firefighter” nor are you going to deny help from someone who shows up and introduces themself and says I am with so and so Volunteer Fire Dept…I’m here to help, but your going to beg and plead for them to do something in order to save that life. That group of guys are the ones who leave family, a wife and a kid or kids at home alone after having been home from work for only 10 minutes in the evening and again if needed in the early hours of the morning to help yours. Last, but not least your lack of knowledge on why any equipment within that station is being bought and making the comment of “buying unnessary equipment”…again, it’s unnessary for the time being, but it’ll be worth gold when you or someone you know needs it. This is not a pissing match with anyone who reads this or with who it is directed towards which I’m sure that I made obvious. This is simply common sense and should prove that some people in this world should just not say a thing, especially when you lack the intellect and the knowledge.
    To the members of Station 1200, stay strong!

  • Lacie

    To those who think its funny wait til your house is on fire you want think its funny any more

  • Surf City Resident

    This is and has been the most unprofessional department I have ever seen in action. I remember watching one of them direct traffic in full turn out gear and an axe. I love to watch them park in the fire lanes in their POV vehicles and go shopping. Im sure that if the SBI or State Fire Marshals Office were to investigate them they would find that alot of money was used or embezzled by several people there for their own personal use. I’m sure that there is alot that has gone on there that would be uncovered by a good investigation. Just like the firefighters that were arrested there for indecent liberties with children. You know the daycare that was run there out of the fire department. Heck they show up at fire scenes when they have never been dispatched. Self dispatching I guess and causing more harm than good. Lets save the tax payers some money and get rid of the extra Fat.

  • dave garten

    You are do hilarious in your ignorance. I know who you are so man up for once in your life

  • Colene Satterfield

    The station is open to the public anyone can come in and look at the books and they have been look at we are good :)
    We do background checks on everyone no one there been arrested for indecent liberties with a children
    We have never run a daycare
    As a volunteer we had to be state certified just like the paid
    we have six paid firefighters during the day
    All fire department have DEBT TO PROTECT YOUR DEBT
    You can say that volunteers are not real firefighter but we have paid firefighter that volunteer and retiree firefighter
    they have got a lot of grant to help buy equipement to save taxpayers money.Have never been late on thier loans.
    I trust SCVFD.
    The bottom line is equipement not cheap and its not like it used to be a horse and bucket of water.

  • SurfCityTom

    to address the issue of closure or remaining open.

    But you made a very specific statement concerning embezzlement of funds.

    You made another statement concerning indecent liberties with children.

    Those are very serious charges.

    If you can prove either, go see the DA or SBI and make your case.

    If you’re just spouting off, and just throwing out words to see what sticks to the wall, you owe some apologies.

  • Tax Payer to the fire department

    Excuse me but if you guys are good with the books then why are you guys in over $400,000.00 in debt?? Really you guys are hiding something… I would honestly like to hear what the chief has to say about all this going on instead of the members since he is the one running the department..And you need to check the history of your fire department it sees like you don’t know the facts at all! And as for saving the tax payers money we just had a tax increase last year and now your chief was asking for another tax increase according to the new, how is that saving us money?? t I mean you guys are making yourselves look bad by commenting on people opinions.

  • Joe Blow

    please do me a favor and price out a fully loaded fire truck ( class A engine ) and then you will see why there is some much debt. I mean they don’t just give them to us they cost money just like everything else in this world. so please just call and price one out fully loaded and let me know what you find. I bet you will delete that comment real quick.

  • Tax payer to that department

    OK………YOU please do me a favor, evidently you like doing math, so this should be simple. Its not the cost of the truck, nor the price of equipment. the district that SCVFD has is a BIG district indeed.

    the actual revenue it generates is a small budget due to housing, it has thousands of acres (one of the biggest acre districts). There isn’t really a lot of residents in the district. SO….that means less people to pay taxes.
    Now you come up with what the district’s value is. So figure in that insurance wont pay much for trees if they burn, but housing, vehicles, and etc.. Odviously will not be as valuable as hampstead, sloop point, Burgaw, and so on.
    Then you factor in the cost of existence. That means what would it cost to run a fire station in that district. That department Never runs over 400 calls a year, that includes mutual aid to other departments. Out of the 400 calls, at most there is as many as 20 actual structure fires, 100 traffic accidents or traffic related, the rest is just responding cancelled enroute. So you can bet it isn’t a big cost. However, Surf City Vol. gets the third most money in the county, just behind hampstead, and sloop point.

    After doing so there should be no reason to be any % over budget. however commissioners were conciderate to you to let you go over for a new truck in 2010. You took advantage of that. There is a misuse of money there. plus there is a station literally right next door.
    The Figure in that your wanting a New Brush truck While in debt on a NEW engine that you really need neither of the two.

  • Surf City Resident

    Yes there was an arrest from there for the child incident and the article was covered by this media outlet. Your station just received $350,000 from Mike McIntyre of tax payer dollars and your still $400,000 in debt. Curious where that $350,000 went. Best part its no longer an issue the station is being shut down this month so all that remains is the investigation into recovering what we can of the wasted tax dollars.


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