Volunteers Make Up Bulk of Pender's Firefighting Force

HAMPSTEAD -- Firefighters -- both paid and volunteer -- have worked for two days straight, protecting homes and property.

But volunteer firefighter Lt. Ray Thompson has no complaints.

"It's a brotherhood, and we enjoy it," Thompson said.

Thompson is one of nearly 400 volunteer firefighters who make up Pender County's force.

These men and women helped to put out Monday's destructive fire that burned more than 1,100 acres. But no homes were lost, and no lives, and much of the credit for that goes to the firefighters.

Thompson says being a firefighter is a tradition in his family.

"I do it because my kids are proud of me and it's a God-given talent to serve your community," Thompson said.

Pender County has 12 volunteer fire departments that make up 95 percent of the county's elite group. Billy Katalinic has been a volunteer with the Rocky Point Fire Department for 25 years. He says firefighters are the backbone of the community.

"If we're needed, we're there. It makes me feel good to be a volunteer and give back to a community that gives," Katalinic said.

Katalinic and Thompson both say the compensation they get is from protecting their neighbors. And they'll continue working hard until all the flames from this wildfire and the next one are completely out.

If you're interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, contact your local fire department for details.

Reported by Kelli O'Hara