Mike Aycock sees change to volunteer squads ahead
By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 8, 2005 2:08 AM
The Wayne County fireman of the year says the makeup of the rural volunteer department may be changing.
"I'm concerned about the life of the fire department in the years to come," Little River Fire Chief Mike Aycock said.
He says he can foresee a time when a paid firefighter may have to man the volunteer departments on weekdays because of staffing problems.
"When the alarm goes off during the day, I know I may be the only one at the station," Aycock said. Then he added that his son works a short distance away.
At night the manpower problem is reduced because people are home from work.
"In the mid-1960s," Aycock said, "95 percent of firefighters were farmers. Now on our roster, we have one farmer -- that's all. The others work at jobs out of the district during the day."
The Little River chief for 10 years, Aycock thanked the employers who allow the volunteers to leave their jobs and answer fire calls.
"If it weren't for that, we'd be in trouble," he said.
What does help, however, is a good relationship with neighboring departments.
"If we have a call and other departments are close by, they'll come and help us," he said.
The 58-year-old Aycock says he was surprised in January when he received the annual G. Edgar Summerlin Award for his service to the Wayne County Firemen's Association.
"I thought some of it sounded familiar," he said about the introduction of the winner. "But I had no idea he was talking about me. It was one of the biggest surprises in my life. ... It was a great honor. ... I was overwhelmed when he called my name."
Aycock says that being a member of the county association and the fire department are very important parts of his life.
Aycock is serving his second term as chaplain and was the association president in 2003. He now serves on four committees -- training grounds, funding and manpower, nominating and Summerlin Award. He also is on the executive board.
Aycock got his start in the fire service as a teen-ager in 1963. He said his father, Charles, his uncles and grandfathers were original members of the Nahunta department.
"I started going with them when they built their first fire truck in the ag shop at Nahunta School," Aycock said. "I got exposed to fire equipment at that time."
Aycock joined the department in the late 1960s, left for a few years and returned to stay in 1973.
Later the Nahunta department was cut in half and renamed Nahunta I and Nahunta II. But to avoid confusion, Aycock said, the southern part was named Little River.
After using hand-made trucks, Little River got its first factory-made vehicle, a Grumman pumper, in 1980. That was the same year that the first part of the new station was built. Later a larger section with five bays, a kitchen and a bathroom was added in 2000. The department now has two pumpers, a tanker and a brush truck.
Aycock says he hopes to turn over the chief's job in a few years.
"It's a lot of responsibility," he said. "People don't realize the amount of paperwork and reports that have to be taken care of to keep the department up to standards."
Among the reports is the training that members do. Volunteers must train 36 hours a year, but many Little River members do much more, Aycock says.
Aycock then paid tribute to the families of the volunteers.
"They support us tremendously. We've got a good ladies' auxiliary. They are small in numbers. But any time we need them, they're at a fire scene with refreshments. They have fund raisers and will buy furniture for a room at the station."
When he is not running the fire department, Aycock sells products for Royster-Clark Inc., the fertilizer plant near Princeton, where he has worked for almost 28 years.
A 1966 graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School, Aycock has been married to the former Judy Mitchell for 38 years. She is the administrative secretary to Gene Thomas, the Goldsboro Housing Authority director.
The Aycocks have three grown children. Daughter Marcy and husband Kelly Lamm have three two children and live in Wilson; daughter Holly Aycock lives in Greenville, and son Tim and his wife Kathy have a daughter and live near his parents. Aycock's parents, Charles and Mary, live near the fire station.
Aycock's hobby includes singing, helping with his dad's garden and his grandchildren. He sings in the choir at Pinkney Baptist Church and has sung weekends for 30 years with the gospel group Legacy in the Carolinas and Virginia.
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