During the decade of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, Corolla was a true fledgling community, with few paved roads and relatively few homes and residents. Fire protection was difficult and fire responses, to the extent necessary, were provided by the lower Currituck volunteer fire department from facilities on the mainland.
Corolla Fire & Rescue Squad, Inc. (Corolla Fire) was established July 1, 1983 as a non-profit volunteer organization funded by Currituck County and the generous donations from our many supporters. The first vehicle was a 1968 Military Jeep Kaiser Brush truck donated by Lower Currituck Volunteer Fire Department. In 1983, a new 4-wheel drive Ford ambulance was placed in service, and Corolla became a North Carolina Certified Basic EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) provider. A three-bay garage and meeting room was soon built on Whalehead Drive, primarily with volunteer labor. A Grumman pumper/tanker and Grumman tanker was placed in service in 1984. In 1986, an Emergency One GMC all-wheel drive pumper was added to provide a water source from remote ponds as well as the Currituck Sound. During the remainder of the decade, Corolla Fire responded to fewer than a dozen fire calls annually.
In the summer of 1989 several squad members received rigorous training and testing. As a result Corolla Rescue (the EMT section) became one of the first EMT-D (Defibrillation) rated squads in Northeastern North Carolina.
With membership and training constantly increasing, Corolla Fire and Rescue Squad became rated by the North Caroline Fire Commission as a Level 9 fire station in December 1989. Becoming a “rated” company resulted in lower insurance rates for property owners within our fire district.
Throughout the winter of 1989 some members received extensive classroom, clinical, and preceptor supervised field training. In the spring of 1990, Corolla Rescue became state certified as an Advanced Life Support EMT Intermediate Squad. Approved techniques included certain medications and intravenous fluid therapy.
A second Advanced Life Support ambulance was added in early summer 1990. Currituck County Emergency Services supplied two EMT’s to staff Corolla Station who were paid 50% through the County Occupancy Tax, and 50% by the General Fund. Equipment and procedures were the responsibility of Corolla Fire and Rescue.
Water Rescue operations were also added during the summer of 1990 with the purchase of a 1990 Yamaha 650 Jet Ski and related equipment. The volunteer Water Rescue Team was called into action eleven times that year. During the summer of 1991, we began daily paid beach patrols from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Funding was being provided primarily by donations. Volunteers were called upon to back up this operation for water rescue.
In late 1990, the station was enlarged to seven bays and a new 102 foot Grumman Aerial Platform truck was placed in service. This truck would not only be used in single/multiple story structure fires, but also for the removal of patients from upper floors, where patient immobilization might be required. The station was further expanded to ten bays in 1995 and to its current eleven bays in 1996. By that time, the development of the Corolla Outer Banks began to accelerate exponentially. Fire call volume in 1995 had increase to an annual level of ninety-four (94), up from the previous average of less than fifteen (15) calls per year.
Corolla added a Pierce Sabre Pumper in 1998. The new engine 62 is equipped with one thousand (1,000) feet of five (5) inch hose, a twelve hundred and fifty (1,250) gallon water tank and a fifteen hundred (1,500) gallons per minute (gpm) Waterous single stage pump.
A 500 gpm deck gun
Two (2) discharges other than pre-connects
Five (5) attack hose pre-connects
One (1) 1″ hose reel with 150 feet of hose
In mid-2007, Corolla Fire added a second facility located at roughly mile post 4.7 on Ocean Trail. The Pine Island station boosts another six vehicle bays, and additional sleeping quarters for personnel. We also added our second Pierce pumper, similarly equipped as the first, allowing one “first out” engine at each station. The addition of the Pine Island station, and dedicated efforts of our volunteers, resulted in an improvement of our insurance rating to a Level 6. A Level 6 rating was the best in all of Currituck County. An ISO rating of 6 greatly benefited property owners in Corolla through dramatic reductions in insurance costs.
By 2007, Corolla Fire was experiencing an annual call volume of 190+. That was twice the level experienced in the 1994-5 time frame. Our volunteers were being asked to do much more and continued training and practice were necessitated.
The year 2007 was also a transition point away from EMS activities. During the later portion of the year, Currituck County assumed full responsibility for Emergency Medical Services in Corolla. Corolla Fire and Rescue would now concentrate on fire and fire related activities.
In 2012 we responded to 355 fire calls, nearly double again from only five (5) years earlier. Our service area is nearly fourteen (14) miles in length, from the Dare county line to the beach strands, but an average of only one half (1/2) mile in width. Our call volume annually was now more than 35 times what it was in the earliest years. When you consider we were staffed by only 46 certified volunteers, this becomes a truly amazing undertaking by a small number of dedicated residents.
In 2012 we took delivery of a second four wheeled (4X4) engine. Engine 65 is a 2009 (built in 2011) four wheel drive (4×4) international chassis, manufactured by OBX Firetech. It is equipped with one thousand (1,000) feet of three (3) inch hose, an eight hundred and fifty (850) gallon water tank, and a twelve hundred and fifty (1,250) gpm Waterous single stage pump driven by a separate, stand-alone diesel engine.
In early 2013, Corolla Ocean Rescue, Inc. (COR) was independently incorporated into a separate entity. Corolla Ocean Rescue was an elite lifesaving service focused on providing the safest beach environment possible through public education, observation, and interaction. The organization employed a seasonal staff of over forty (40) athletes who effected between one and two hundred rescues every summer. The group hosted several different kids’ ocean safety program, and regularly competed in local and regional competition, routinely placing in the top three finishers.
As the contracting entity for the ocean rescue contract, Currituck County elected not to renew the contract with Corolla Ocean Rescue for the 2015 season. A four (4) year contract was awarded to another company, thereby ending the ocean rescue services formerly performed by Corolla Ocean Rescue, Inc.
Corolla Ocean Rescue will be re-tasked as an educational organization and will hence forth do business as CFR Cares.
In 2015, Corolla Fire we responded to 430 fire calls, from the Dare county line to the beach strands. Our call volume annually is now nearly 40 times what it was in the earliest years. Corolla Fire is staffed by 51 certified volunteers.
In the Fall of 2016, the name of the former Corolla Ocean Rescue was formally changed to CFR Cares, Inc. The purpose of CFR CARES, will be to develop and provide educational programs and other tools designed to promote safe practices in various fields of public safety, including water safety, fire prevention and traffic safety. The organization will apply its resources to identify safety risks within the community and formulate preventive programs and techniques to mitigate against or eliminate those safety risks. At a more granular level, programs would address water safety for ocean swimmers and surfers, boating safety, safe fishing practices where swimmers are nearby, traffic and vehicular safety, such as wearing reflective gear while walking or biking along heavily travelled roads, Firewise® program development, and fire prevention education (including risks associated with fireworks, Chinese lanterns, common electrical issues, and cooking with propane grills). The organization would seek grants from charitable and governmental entities to further its programs to fund the development of educational programs as well as the purchase of safety supplies to be distributed within the community, particularly to foreign students who come on short-term visas to work in Corolla’s tourist industry during the summer months. It is expected that funds would also be provided by Corolla Fire and Rescue Foundation, a section 501(c) (9) “supporting” organization.
Also, in the Fall of 2016, Corolla Fire took delivery of a new Tanker, T-62, designed to supplement our firefighting capabilities within both along hard surfaced roads and off-road including beach access only areas. Tanker 62 is a 2016 Rosenbauer four-wheel drive side mount tanker on an International chassis. The tanker has a 2,000-gallon capacity.
In accordance with Objective #1; Goal #2 of the 2016-2022 Strategic Plan, Corolla Fire and Currituck County initiated the research and documentation to support the need and timeline of full-time, paid firefighting personnel in Corolla. In the Fall of 2016, we began the process by polling all Corolla property owners regarding their support, or non-support, of the proposal. The research and dialog would continue throughout the following year.
In 2016, Corolla Fire we responded to 391 fire calls, from the Dare county line to the beach strands. As anticipated, our member roster declined, primarily due to age and health issues. At the end of 2016, Corolla Fire had 35 certified volunteer members.
The year 2017 saw several significant events within the department. The efforts to secure a full-time paid staff continued in earnest. The results of the mail polling of Corolla property owners overwhelmingly supported the proposal. Over 90% of responses were in favor of a professional contingent at both stations.
Corolla Fire also welcomed a new Fire Chief. After many dedicated years of service, Chief Richard Galganski elected to retire. The Corolla Fire Board announced that Richard Shortway would become the new Fire Chief, effective in July 2017.
Currituck County, in conjunction with the volunteer companies in the County, established a new “Tanker Task Force”. This provided protocols for available tankers from one district to assist other districts when the needs dictated. Tanker 62 was included in the resource fleet and has since been called upon several times to assist mainland stations.
In 2017, Corolla Fire we responded to 406 fire calls, from the Dare county line to the beach strands. Our member roster further declined, and at the end of 2017, Corolla Fire had 30 certified volunteer members.
2018 began with a full and comprehensive inspection by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, colloquially know as an ISO inspection. A North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS) inspect fire districts for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance practices, communications capabilities, availability of adequate water sources and community education and risk reduction programs. The NCRRS rating system rates each department using a scoring range from one (1) – the highest rating, to ten (10) – indicating a department is not recognized as a certified department by the state.
Within the context of the 2018 inspection, 105.5 total points were available. Corolla Fire received a total score of 58.44, which resulted in a rating of Five (5), an improvement from the former Six (6) rating previously achieved. It should be noted that a score of 58.44 is only 1.56 points from a rating of Four (4), a level achieved by fewer than 80 departments in the state.
Six (6) total-bay air ventilation units were installed at the Whalehead station to provide much needed ventilation and exhaust gases removal. These units continuously detect gas levels and start automatically.
Corolla Fire achieved a milestone in May of 2018. Having successfully garnered community support and the approval of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners, we formally became a “combination”, volunteer/professional, fire department with the addition of thirty-nine (39) full-time paid firefighters. Each station, Whalehead and Pine Island is staffed by a full four-person fire crew (an engine company) and two-person EMS crew twenty-four hours a day – seven days a week. The county organization includes three (3) shift captains and six (6) lieutenant positions. Active volunteers continue to supplement the county staff and respond to fire incidents, as always, in various other apparatus including Platform 61, Tanker 62, Engines 64 & 65, Brush 61 and REHAB 61 & 62.
In 2018, Corolla Fire we responded to 331 fire calls, from the Dare county line to the beach strands. Our volunteer member roster further declined and at the end of 2018, Corolla Fire had 28 certified volunteer members, but we added 39 full time paid personnel.
Beginning in 2019, and through the leadership of CFR Cares, Inc., Corolla Fire was awarded a two (2) mile stretch of Route 12 to be designated as our “Adopt-A-Highway” section. Roadside liter pickup is required four times per year. Volunteers from Corolla Fire, CFR Cares, county paid crews and International students will participate in these efforts.
Today Corolla boasts over three thousand five hundred (3,500) homes and businesses. The total property value is estimated at over five billion ($5,000,000,000) dollars. Although the numbers of properties have mushroomed, our year-round, permanent population is still fewer than one thousand (1000), and probably closer to five hundred (500). Incredibly, summer visitors can balloon our weekly population to over sixty (60,000). This “resort community” phenomenon poses many challenges to our volunteers.
Corolla Fire is a multi-faceted organization serving the citizens and visitors of Currituck County. We became a combination fire department in 2018 and are made up of about 30 full volunteer members, North Carolina state firefighters’ association certified, and 39 county paid fire and EMS personnel. We operate from two stations with two standard class “A” pumper engines, two four-wheel drive class ‘A’ pumper engines, a 102-foot aerial platform truck, a four-wheel drive tanker truck, a four-wheel drive “brush” truck and various other specialized fire apparatus.