George Mapp: More than a fire department

December 30, 2013 

In the Dec. 29 article “Public money, private records? Parkwood shields spending, piles up OT,” Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department was cited as paying relatively high amounts of overtime in the past five years. The piece also pointed out that the department’s accounting books are open to Durham County officials, but not to the public, and requests by the N&O to see them were denied. The article mentioned that PVFD has, in addition to 29 full-time and 13 part-time employees, 25 volunteers. These volunteers help the department save money. In turn, they gain valuable work experience during a tough job market. Many medical fields such as physicians’ assistants require patient-contact experience in order to qualify for admissions to programs.

The article said PVFD has been the hub of a small community near RTP – it serves as a polling station, hosts two popular barbeque fundraisers each year and takes part in the annual Christmas parade. It does considerably more. As a community institution, PVFD has some of the characteristics of a church or civic group. Former members return to participate in annual barbeques and to serve on the board. Spouses participate in the Auxiliary, which has bake and craft sales, visits and entertains homeless children, hosts team-building socials and, in the event of a long-lasting emergency, can provide refreshments to firefighters and medics. PVFD has a chaplain to comfort patients and their families and to provide moral support to stressed-out members.

The PVFD Special Operations team provides EMS support for several community events, like Duke football and basketball games, Orange County Speedway races and the annual Chapel Hill Halloween celebration on Franklin Street. Parkwood sponsors a cadet program, an Explorer Post affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, that provides teens an opportunity to train in emergency services beside experienced firefighters and EMTs. Some of the members are children of existing or former members, carrying on a family tradition. The PVFD Honor Guard performs ceremonial duties at parades, department meetings, civic events and funerals. This Christmas it visited a local nursing home, singing carols and reading to residents. You mentioned that the department handled more than 900 fire or rescue calls last year. Yes, but also 38 fire calls and 450 EMS calls a month.

Like any other individual or group, PVFD has room for improvement. The overtime payments constitute about 5 percent of the departmental budget, and these payments are going to firefighters and medics who serve us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. PVFD has operated as an independent entity for 45 years and would like to remain that way. It may seem a bit “old school” in its ways, but if you look at the big picture, you will see an organization that has played a vital role in the community for 45 years and should be allowed to continue its traditions.

George Mapp


The writer is a volunteer EMT at Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the story.

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