Fort Mill Times

Paid firefighters ‘moonlight’ as volunteers with local departments

Firefighters’ reasons for why they would volunteer to do a job they could get paid for may not all be the same, but it boils down to the same things: A desire to serve the community and the bonds of brotherhood.

“We had a fire in the neighborhood that I grew up in,” Capt. Glyn Hasty said. “After the fire was out, some of the firefighters took time and talked to many of our neighbors. As a result, I became interested.”

Hasty, 44, is a paid firefighter in his hometown of Charlotte and a volunteer in Indian Land, where he lives. When he was 16, he decided this was his path in life.

“I called the Mecklenburg County Fire Marshall’s Office and asked if and how I could join,” Hasty said. “They told me just to go to the station on a meeting night and they would give me information.”

Hasty, who has held numerous ranks including fire chief in Waxhaw, N.C., went into the Junior Firefighter Program at the Hickory Grove Volunteer Fire Department prior to turning 18 and then served the department as a volunteer from 1985 to 2002. “It did not take long for me to realize what a ‘brotherhood’ the fire service is,” Hasty said. “We all trained together, fought fires together and even vacationed together. I decided this is what I wanted to do for a living.”

In the late 1980s, the volunteer firefighter took the medical, physical and written tests for the Charlotte Fire Department. In 1990, he was hired.

“After 28 years as a volunteer and 23 as a paid firefighter, I will tell you that there is virtually no difference between the two,” Hasty said. The training requirements are more stringent and more regimented in the city, but many volunteers obtain the same certifications. The calls are the same, just less frequent in the volunteer service due simply to population density. The fire is not any less hot because the volunteers respond rather than the paid guys.”

Not just about fires

Hasty said his most memorable times were when he was able to help deliver babies and that he’s helped bring several into the world. He and other paid firefighters who “moonlight” as volunteers say they’ve had to confront an array of emergency situations.

Capt. Gregory Nicholson, 48, worked for the Charlotte Fire Department and serves as chief of the Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Becoming chief and seeing the completion of a new PVFD station were his most memorable times as a volunteer.

“I became a firefighter because I have a very deep compassion for helping others and serving my community,” Nicholson said. “After serving 14 years as a volunteer firefighter and working in jobs that were unfulfilling, I decided to pursue my true passion, which was to become a full-time firefighter.”

Nicholson began as a volunteer when he was 16 as a junior firefighter in Hendersonville, N.C. He served for one year before his family moved to Indian Land. He had to wait until he was 18 until he could join the Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Thirty years later, Chief Nicholson’s hours vary depending on calls. When he worked in Charlotte, he worked 24 hours shifts 10 days a month.

“There are many differences between the departments, but the job is still the same,” Nicholson said.

The chief said the differences between the paid and volunteer departments are based on the number of firefighters and volume of calls. Charlotte has more departments, members and jobs to respond to.

“Even though there many differences between the departments, we are all united by one brotherhood,” Nicholson said.

“There is no different feeling whether I receive a paycheck or not because it is not about the money,” he said. “It is about the feeling I get when I know I have helped someone or made a difference in someone’s life.”

Nicholson said most memorable day as a Charlotte firefighter was when he received the medal of valor for saving a woman from getting hit by a vehicle during a flood on South Boulevard.

Remembering a friend

Both firefighters spoke the recent loss of another member of their brotherhood. Capt. Ben Moore of Indian Land also was a full-time firefighter who volunteered locally. Moore, who became a firefighter in 1994 and worked at Fire Station 26 near where S. Tryon Street meets Westinghouse Boulevard in

Charlotte, died of apparent natural causes while on vacation with his family.

“We were very close,” Hasty said. “The [recent] tribute and the way the fire service both paid and volunteer came together was something that words cannot describe. The brotherhood became even more real. We live together, fight fires together and live our lives on the line for perfect strangers together.”

“The death of Ben Moore was a huge loss to the Charlotte Fire Department, as well as the Indian Land Volunteer Fire Department,” Nicholson said. “Not only was Ben a great firefighter, he was a true friend and will be missed tremendously.”