A bridge replacement project that will close the heavily traveled Rones Chapel Road connecting Duplin County and Mount Olive for up to eight months will affect more than daily commutes and shopping trips.

It also will sever the Mount Olive Fire Department’s main access route into the 8-square-mile section of Duplin County that it serves.

Fire Chief Greg Wiggins has not driven possible detours yet to determine how much time the road closure will add to response time. However, he thinks it will be a matter of only a minute or two — not a significant delay.

Steps have been taken to offset any delay, he said.

The state is replacing the bridge over a branch of the Northeast Cape Fear River on Rones Chapel Road in Duplin County, less than a half mile east of the Mount Olive town limits. Rones Chapel Road becomes East James Street as it crosses into Wayne County.

The street continues into town, past the Town Hall and through downtown before crossing North Breazeale Avenue (U.S. 117 Business). 

The near $617,517 contract was awarded May 16 to S&C Construction of Wilmington. Work can begin as soon as this week. The contract completion date is Feb. 14.

“It certainly affects our Duplin County district calls,” Wiggins said. “That is the main inlet into our Duplin County district because we go all the way out to (N.C.) 403, and then we turn left on 403 all the way out to the county line.

“All of that area in there is ours. If you go to (N.C.) 403 and hang a right, we go all of the way to Norwood Ezzell Road, so we have 8 square miles in Duplin County, and that is our main route to get to it.”

When the road closes, fire trucks will have to take N.C. 55 to Kelly Springs Road and back into the area. For calls closer to the southern part of the district, the route could be Beautancus Road to Shelton Carr Road to N.C. 403.

“It will be a delay for us, but we have talked with Oak Wolfe Fire Department and Calypso Fire Department,” Wiggins said. “Once they close the road, what we are going to do, it doesn’t matter what we have on that side or in that part of our district, if it is a grass fire, if it is a wreck, whatever, we are going to be sending extra departments so that we can get the quickest response that we can.”

Most of the area will be left up to Oak Wolfe Fire Department, but it will depend on the location, he said.

Calypso will answer calls closer to the southern end of the area.

Multiple departments already respond to confirmed structure fires or grass fires threatening structures, he said.

“We will get Duplin County to dispatch at least two departments on every call,” Wiggins said. “We will definitely be going. If we had a grass fire out there at Jones Turner Road or a car wreck, we would be going to that by ourselves.

“But since we are going to have this delay, Oak Wolfe will be running to it as well. Just like a fire alarm. We normally respond to a fire alarm by ourselves, but in this instance now, it doesn’t matter what the call is, we are going to be sending at least two departments. We will still be going because we are the primary fire department.

“As times go on, we may have to adjust our plans to make sure we do provide the coverage to the folks there but at this point that is our plan to make sure that we have two departments rolling on anything.”

Normally there are “quite a few wrecks” near N.C. 403 but overall, the area does not account for a significant volume of calls for the department, Wiggins said.

The detour route for regular traffic (south to north) is Rones Chapel Road (Secondary Road 1104) to N.C. 403 to Graham Road (Secondary Road 1558) in Duplin County becoming Kelly Springs Road (Secondary Road 1937) in Wayne County to N.C. 55 to North Church Street (Secondary Road 1969) and back to East James Street (Wayne County)/Rones Chapel Road (Duplin County).