The Cowee Volunteer Fire Department hosted a hot dog and hamburger lunch Saturday, June 4, in celebration of their 20th anniversary. The guest entertainer was Matt Stillwell, an up and coming country musician from Sylva, whose popular song, “Shine,” ranked number five in CMT’s Pure Country countdown.
Wayne Pruett, fire chief of the Cowee Volunteer Fire Department since 2003, spoke briefly about the history of the department as well as recognized those individuals that were instrumental in helping to get the department up-and-running and state certified.
The Cowee Volunteer Fire Department was not state certified until June 6, 1991. Until that time, “the department could not officially run a call,” said Pruett.
Therefore, the members of the department concentrated on trying to build their first station and getting a truck.
After their certification in 1991, Carl Hefinfinger became the first fire chief. On staff were 25 firemen and two junior firemen. The department’s first official call was to a home on Matlock Creek. Someone had put charcoal outside in a cardboard box causing a big fire.
Today, 40 firemen are listed on the roster and 12 junior firemen. So far this year, the department has run 64 calls.
Two stations are in operation now — one in Cowee Valley and one in the Oak Grove community. The station at Oak Grove is the only fully functional, five-bay sub-station in Macon County.
That building is dedicated to fallen fellow fireman Kelly Bradley.
The fireman’s auxiliary, a new addition to the department, was in charge of food and refreshments at Saturday’s celebration.
“They take care of the firemen’s needs in the field. They feed the men and do most of the fund raising,” said Pruett. Even in the middle of the night when the crew is on a call they will take food to the scene, refreshing the firefighters.
“In the next 20 years, I hope that this department grows just as much as it has in the past 20 years. We have come so far in 20 years,” said Pruett, reflecting on the past and hopeful for the future of the fire department.
The celebration was a free event but donations were gratefully accepted.