How It All Began
Prior to 1967, the northern villages on Hatteras Island had no fire department. Fires and other emergencies were handled by members of the community, often forming bucket and blanket brigades to put out fires. News of fires spread by phone and word of mouth; there was no siren, no pagers, and no way to let everyone know what was going on. The Buxton Volunteer Fire Department would sometimes come to assist in emergencies, but it often took a long time for them to arrive.
In 1967, Leslie Hooper, ID Midgett, and Dick and Ray Austin, along with other members of the community, decided that it was time a fire department was established to protect the north end of the island. It was a long and difficult task. The first official meeting was held in April of 1967 at the home of Dick Austin, as the station had not yet been built. 23 people attended this first meeting and elected the first officers of the department. Dick Austin was elected President; Leslie Hooper Vice-President; Jean Hooper Treasurer; ID Midgett Secretary; Ray Austin Fire Chief; Leonard Barnett Vice Fire Chief; and Anna Midgett and Johnny Hooper were elected to the Board of Directors, which also included the above members. In addition, Ed McCleod was appointed Publicity Director.
Money was tight. A piece of land located in Salvo was donated to the new cause by Perry Farrow for the purpose of building a fire station. The women of the community banded together to form the Ladies' Auxillary to raise money for building the station, purchasing trucks and equipment, and other costs associated with starting a fire department. Elsie Hooper was the first President. They held weekly Fish Fries and bake sales to build up funds. They also held raffles, chicken fries, and other fundraisers. ID Midgett, the first Secretary of the department, was fishing at the time, and so he donated a great deal of fish to this effort.
These fish fries were a tremendous effort on the part of the community. A shack was built at Salvo Marina for the purpose of selling the fish plates. Each plate purchased included fish, hush puppies, potato salad, cole slaw, and a nice cup of ice tea. Elsie Hooper recalls the work that went into the two-day-a-week event. "I would deliver potatoes to the women of the Ladies Auxillary, so many each day. 50 pounds of potatoes, we had, and 50 pounds of cole slaw [we served at the fish fries] each day [Friday and Saturday]. ... Hush puppies were fixed every morning that we were going to have a fish fry in the afternoon." She still holds the certificates that the Health Department gave her when they approved the fish shack, as well as the recipes for all that food.
In July, the foundation blocks were laid for the fire station. After months of hard work, the original fire station was completed in time for the monthly business meeting in November of 1967. On December 23 of that year, the Fire Station was host to the first annual Christmas Dinner for the department. Buckets of coal were donated to heat the station. Elsie Hooper remembers carrying tub-loads of dishes home to wash on Christmas Eve Day after the dinner.
The Salvo Volunteer Fire Department bought its first truck for $25. A man from Virginia contacted the men of the department, and Dick, Ray, and Leslie went to Virginia beach to get the truck.
Over the years, other trucks were purchased for the department. The station was modified. An addition was built onto the building to add a third bay. A kitchen and office area was partitioned off from the rest of the station in another modification.
Perhaps the most dramatic modification happened in 1995, with the arrival of a new pumper. The new truck was too long to fit into the building, so a booth had to be added onto the front of one bay to accommodate it.
A meeting hall was also built on land acquired adjacent to the fire station. Today it sits beside Highway 12.
During the summer of 2008, the latest change took place in preparation for the arrival of a new aerial truck with a 100-foot ladder. The new truck, it was determined, would not even fit through the bay doors of the old station, let alone inside the station. The old, cinder block station was demolished, and a larger, new, steel-frame building was erected in its place.
The demolition of the original 1967 station was not carried out without some feeling of loss. The emotional attachment to the old station was great among members of the community, especially those who were there to see it built. It was a location in which history had been made, a building that, by its very existence, spoke of hard work and determination of the people of Salvo. However, the need for growth was recognized by all.
The new station is a vast improvement over the old. It is sturdier, with better facilities. It has five bays, showers, a beautiful kitchen, office space, and a common room located upstairs. The new bay doors are automated, and the entire station has central air conditioning. The spacious new building is just what we need as a growing department.
We are proud of our history, and of our status as volunteers. The Salvo Volunteer Fire Department gives the community a sense of pride and identity. Knowing where we have come from, we are looking forward to a bright future.
In Their Own Words: Two Founders Speak
Elsie Hooper and ID Midgett, Sr. are two of the founding members of the Salvo Volunteer Fire Department. In interviews, they describe the beginning of the department in 1967.
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In the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 16, 2007 firefighters from Salvo, Chicamacomico & Avon were dispatched to fight a fully-involved structure fire in Hatteas Colony.
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