Despite its small size of 239 square miles, Vance County has many people who would pitch in to help fight larger fires if needed. But the state said that's not enough, and that the county's fire department is not up to its needed staff.
Officials with the state Fire Marshal's Office said four firefighters dispatched to cover two recent structure fires fall below the state minimum required. They have threatened the county with losing its fire insurance rating.
In reacting to the state's findings, Vance County commissioners added four firefighter positions, with the promise to add three more next year. That gives Vance County Fire Chief Danny Wilkerson and his department seven more firefighters, bringing the roster up to 25. There are also 35 full-time firefighters with the Henderson Fire Department.
"To me, it sends a strong message to the staff of the fire department and the citizens of Vance County that they are concerned about fire protection," Wilkerson said.
And as Wilkerson's personal scrapbook of Henderson's biggest fires shows, it's all about fighting fires.
"The more people we have available to come to the scene, the quicker we can put the fire out, the more property we save, and potentially save lives," said firefighter Brad Knudson.