The Danbury Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad will be opening their doors for a free lunch on April 21 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. to celebrate their 50th year in the community.
There’s been a lot of progress and a lot of change, according to charter member Donnie Mabe, who still volunteers and is one of only three living from the original group at Station 39.
In late 1967, the first meetings were held at the Danbury courthouse and soon after the group purchased a 1948 Dodge and housed it at Spot and Travis Mabe’s Garage.
The first governing board consisted of Chairman J.R. Speer, Treasurer W.A. Tilley, Secretary F.P. Martin, and Directors P.J. Leake, L.H. VanNoppen, Norman Hole, David Mabe, C.B. Bullin, Smith Priddy, Maxwell Alley, C.A. Priddy, H.M. Joyce, Raymond Young, Hacky Mabe, Billy Nelson, Roy Hole, and Fire Chief W. Zack Wood.
Mabe said there are more calls now than in the past, but pagers and cell phones have made it easier to navigate and organize volunteers.
Some things have also remained the same.
The ladies auxillary, which was established soon after the group was chartered, continue to play an instrumental role at the station. They meet once a month and around 15 to 20 women assist the firemen by bringing out food and drinks on extended calls.
“They do a super job and are a real vital part to what we do,” Mabe said.
In December of 1985, the Danbury Volunteer Fire Department chartered with the State of North Carolina to incorporate as the Danbury Volunteer Fire Dept. and Rescue Squad. Today, they cover a portion of the county which includes 2,050 people, the hospital, county buildings, Dan River, Moratock Park and rescues at Hanging Rock State Park.
“We have 39 who are active and all are strictly volunteers. Eight are certified firefighters and eight certified EMT’s. We average around 420 calls a year, which keeps us busy,” said Chief Jerry Manuel.
Volunteers range in ages, but the majority fall between 19 to 34.
“We have some who are over 60 and we’re thankful for them because they bring a lot of wisdom,” the chief added.
Manuel offers a plethora of knowledge as well. He joined the ranks of the department at 13-years-old as a Jr. Firefighter, a program that is still going strong today.
“Most of us have been around long enough that we end up assisting people we know,” Manuel said. “We really look at this as neighbors helping neighbors. It’s hard to see a family you know lose everything they have, but we’re there to help and we work with the American Red Cross and lot of our local church ministries.”
Manuel said today he sees more medical calls, especially from senior citizens who may not get out much or have recently come home from the hospital. Calls are often dispatched due to opioid use.
“I think everyone who volunteers here would say there’s nights you’re eating supper and a call comes in. You leave and may not get home until five or six the next morning. It’s a whole lot of that. People leave their families to go out and help someone else. But we do it because we love this community and the people here.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.