Mashburn, who has worked with the Forest Service in Macon County since 1987, took over from Donnie Seagle as County Ranger in 2001. Only two full-time NCFS employees and a seasonal forest service firefighter are responsible for protecting more than 170,000 acres of state and private forestland in the county from wildfires. This is in addition to the many other issues of forest and woodland management with which the state charges the agency.
Both Jacob Gribble, vice-president of MCFA, and Warren Cabe, director of Emergency Management for the county, noted that Mashburn has been key in coordinating the county’s firefighting resources and has been a strong mentor for many of the volunteer firefighting personnel in the county. “He trained a lot of us, and we’ve worked very closely together,” said Cabe. “We really appreciate everything he does.”
Kevin McCaskill, assistant chief for Burningtown/ Iotla Fire and Rescue, also commented on Mashburn’s work training new cadets with the volunteer fire departments, as well as safety programs for homeowners that Mashburn has helped develop.
Franklin Fire Department Chief Pete Haithcock noted that Mashburn has been instrumental in bringing a much higher level of cooperation between the various agencies and fire departments in the county. “The cooperation is the best we’ve ever seen in the fire service here in Macon County,” he said.
“It’s by necessity that we have to collaborate with each other,” Mashburn said on Monday of the importance of maintaining a close and active relationship with the county’s volunteer fire departments. “Resources are very limited and the relationship we have with the local firefighters and other agencies is very important,” he said.
Firefighters of the Year
Also at Saturday’s banquet, held at the Boiler Room, ten firefighters were recognized for their outstanding performance and dedication in protecting their communities over the past year. Each Firefighter of the Year received a plaque recognizing their achievement.
County commission chairman Brian Mc- Clellan, as well as commissioner Ronnie Beale, attended the event. Both noted the invaluable service that the county’s firefighters and emergency services personnel provide to the county’s citizens.
“With the topography which we have in Macon County, we could not even begin to give our citizens the coverage that they need without what all of you do,” said McClellan. He noted that the county’s volunteer firefighters go through continuous training and are required to take numerous certification classes, adding that he doubted many people are aware of the commitment required of the men and women who volunteer. “It’s never taken for granted,” he said of the service of the county’s firefighters.
Beale expressed particular thanks to the veteran firefighters. “For you veterans that have guided these fire departments through the years, words cannot express the appreciation from the county that we feel. We thank you so much,” he said.
Macon County has 11 fire departments staffed mostly by part-time volunteers. Including the junior volunteers, there are approximately 460 firefighters in the county.
The following individuals were awarded the distinction of Firefighter of the Year for their department:
Matthew Pruitt, Franklin Fire and Rescue No. 1100
Robbie Forrester, Highlands Fire and Rescue No. 1200
Zack Ledford, Clarks Chapel Fire and Rescue No. 1300
Heather Snyder, Burningtown/Iotla Fire and Rescue No. 1500
Bobby Henry, Cullasaja Gorge Fire and Rescue No. 1600
Chad Hand, West Macon Fire and Rescue No. 1700
Dustin Pendergrass, Cowee Fire and Rescue No. 1800
Lamar Billingsley, Sky Valley/Scaly Mountain Fire and Rescue No. 1900
Ray Evans, Nantahala Fire and Rescue No. 3200
Jonathan Tallent, Mountain Valley Fire and Rescue No. 3300