Mecklenburg County Considers Shutting Down Two Volunteer Fire Stations

CHARLOTTE, NC -Two long time volunteer fire departments in Mecklenburg County face the possibility of shutting down.

“The department has been around for 67 years,” said Jason Cook, the Asst. Fire Chief at the Cooks Volunteer Fire Department, “you’ve got people growing up and that’s all they’ve ever known.”

Cook says the department is a staple in the community. There are 18 full-time paid firefighters and 12 volunteers who go on roughly 900 calls a year.

Earlier this month a proposal from the county’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency recommended shutting down the Cooks and Robinson volunteer stations.

“It really caught all of us off guard,” said Cook.

There are six volunteer fire departments in the county. They’re asking for a combined 5.9 million dollars in operating funds for 2021. A huge increase from the roughly $500,000 dollars they requested in 2012.

“So the model is changing,” said Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi, the Director of the County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, “it’s evolving. It’s going from a volunteer force to a paid force.”

He says as costs continue to rise they’re looking at all options. Charlotte Fire is conducting a study, looking into the possibility of taking over the Cooks coverage area.

There are Charlotte Fire stations about a mile from the Cooks and Robinson buildings.

“If there is a more cost-effective model of providing the same or better service, we want to make sure we look at it,” said Gujjarlapudi.

In the meantime, firefighters say they’ll talk to commissioners and rally support.

“The Cooks community is so strong that I feel like people would do whatever they had to in order to keep the doors open,” said Cook.

The recommendation has not been voted on. It’s in the early proposal stages. The county manager will submit the 2021 budget this spring.