After years of planning and saving money, the Archer Lodge Fire Department is almost ready to expand.
Firefighters have outgrown their 9,000-square-foot building on Covered Bridge Road in northwestern Johnston County. They will build a 7,800-square-foot addition onto the current headquarters. The plans call for dorms, additional truck bays and future EMS space.
As more people have moved to town, the fire department has had to grow. Archer Lodge’s population of about 4,400 people continues to surge at a rate that’s slower only than Clayton’s among Johnston County towns. Nearby communities like Corinth Holders are also thriving.
Last year, the fire department responded to 200 more calls than it did in the early 2000s, when it built its current fire station.
“It’s been coming,” said Phillip Driver, chief of the Archer Lodge Fire Department.
Driver said the department, which has historically operated with volunteers, hired its first part-time firefighter about eight years ago. Today, the department employs four part-time firefighters who work seven days a week.
The idea is to eventually add full-time firefighters, a plan that will be easier with the expansion. In addition to sleeping quarters and bathrooms for firefighters, the addition will also provide more office space.
“We’ve got stuff stacked in every little room,” Driver said.
The department will use about $600,000 of its own money to pay for part of the project. The remaining construction dollars will come from a tax-exempt loan approved this past week by the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. The $773,000 loan is from Four Oaks Bank & Trust.
“It’s going to be a great project,” said County Commissioner Chad Stewart, who lives in Four Oaks. “I saw where they have EMS capabilities in the future, and if they need a truck added, they have it.”
A group of residents chartered the Archer Lodge Fire Department in 1958. The department’s first building, which had two truck bays, is still standing behind the C.E. Barnes Store at the intersection of Covered Bridge and Buffalo roads.
The department initially built on its current site in 1979. Firefighters replaced that station with a larger one in 2001.
Today, the fire department operates with 37 volunteers and responds to calls from the more than 9,000 residents who live in the fire district.