THANK YOU for your support. The past year was a busy one as we tackled some very challenging issues. Here are a few highlights from 2022 plus ways to help us in 2023:
- Responded to a record 700+ calls in 2022 with the fewest active volunteers in the department’s history.
- Volunteer firefighters logged 3,000 hours of training, with another 3,000 hours on calls. Total dollar value of donated time $180,000 (based on $30/hr for average NC firefighter salary including benefits & other employee costs).
- Received big news from North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal: Banner Elk Fire District received the ISO (Insurance Services Office) Class 5/5 (city/rural) Rating (read more). The district had the lower rating of Class 6/9 for two decades. The improved rating is the result of a very meticulous documentation process. An ISO rating reflects the readiness of a district for fires. The better rating lowers property insurance rates for homes and businesses.
- Expanded our community outreach that included open houses, Storytime with Santa, talks to community groups, school visits, social media, press releases and new website.
- Applied for many grants. For the first time, received a generous grant of $31,000 from High Country Charitable Foundation for firefighter safety equipment. Also received a $30,000 state grant.
- Raised more than $5,000 at the annual Auxiliary Pie Auction held in June from bids for 50+ homemade pies and cakes.
- Raised more than $8,000 at the Firehouse Fundraiser show held in August at Banner Elk Presbyterian Church to purchase rescue equipment.
- Resumed fire safety education for children at preschool and elementary school.
- Began a Community Task Force for guidance on long-range plan.
- Provided a community CPR Certification class.
- In October, we received a long-awaited Pierce Fire Truck that was custom designed by our firefighters for the unique demands of the district. The $516,000 truck was funded by the county fire tax and funds from the sale of an older fire truck.
- Purchased land with hopes of building a new station to replace current one built in 1965.
- Stabilized turnover of paid position provided by Avery County, with coverage M-F 7AM-3PM.
- The department celebrated its volunteers, auxiliary and charter members at a Christmas dinner. Charter members shared stories from the early days.
Community Help Needed in 2023
Banner Elk Fire Rescue is a volunteer fire department protecting a large district that includes the communities of Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain, Elk River, Diamond Creek, Eagle’s Nest, Tynecastle, The Farm, Balm, and Lees-McRae College. Please help us with these needs for this year:
- We have a crucial need for volunteer firefighters. Please spread the word! Get details on needs and training that is included.
- With the input from a new Community Advisory Task Force, the Banner Elk Fire Rescue Board of Directors will create a long-range strategic plan for the department.
- With the skyrocketing real estate costs and the recent rush to convert long-term rentals to vacation rentals, most of our volunteers live outside our district. We need affordable housing.
- We need to greatly supplement our limited funding from Avery County. The collected fire tax is divided equally for all 10 county volunteer fire departments, but the Banner Elk District is one of the largest and busiest. Contact Avery County Board of Commissioners and other local and state elected officials to ask for increased district funding.
- Currently, the County provides a paid firefighter on M-F, 7AM-3 PM. We need to fund additional paid coverage – with an eventual goal of 24/7 paid coverage. With the recent increase in traffic congestion, there are times when volunteers cannot reach the station in a timely manner. We are also evaluating plans for per-call stipends for volunteer firefighters to help cover their personal expenses.
- We need help with community fundraisers and securing grants to purchase more than $100,000 in fire and rescue equipment in 2023. Did you know that each firefighter wears about $17,500 worth of equipment, including air packs, turnout gear, radio and tools?