The Cumberland County Board of County Commissioners formed the Fire Marshal's Department in 1972. The Board appointed Arnold J. Koonce as the County's Chief Fire Inspector. A few years later this title was changed to the County Fire Marshal. Mr. Koonce was instrumental in starting the fire service in Cumberland County. This effort started in 1955, when the Pearce's Mill Fire Department became the first organized fire department in Cumberland County outside any municipality. The Fire Marshal's job consisted of being the County's liaison between county government and the fire departments in existence and those being formed. The job also included inspecting those facilities required by State Law needing regular fire safety inspections. These included schools, day cares and foster homes. Early in 1987 the County adopted NFPA 1 as the code that would be used for fire and life safety issues. In 1986 Annette Nunnery was hired as the first full-time secretary. Later in 1987, the department again grew when Ricky Strickland and David Chavis were hired as the first fire inspectors to assist with the growing fire inspection requirements.
In 1989, Mr. Koonce retired after 33 years service with Cumberland County. Ricky Strickland was appointed Interim Fire Marshal. In the spring of 1990 this appointment was made permanent and Mr. Strickland became the second County Fire Marshal for Cumberland County. Mr. Arnold J. Koonce passed away shortly after retirement. Members of the fire service from across the state gathered to pay honor to him. To this day he is still known as the ¨father of the fire service in Cumberland County.¨
In 1990, the department's name was changed to the Cumberland County Fire Marshal's Office. A major milestone came in 1991 when the NC Legislature enacted the first statewide fire prevention code. Now everyone in the state had one common code to enforce fire safety efforts in new and existing structures in NC. In 1992, a third fire inspector was added to the office. Over the years several folks have come and gone in the office as fire inspectors. Several have gone on to become Fire Marshal's in other counties in NC. In 1994, the fire inspectors became Assistant Fire Marshal's.
Today, the County Fire Marshal's Office is responsible for code enforcement in all unincorporated areas of the County. The Office still is liaison between the county government and the contracted fire departments in the County. In addition to code enforcement, the Office participates in public fire education, maintains and schedules the children's fire safety house for the fire departments. A smoke detector installation program is used to provide free smoke detectors for citizens in the County. Members of the Office assist fire departments in emergencies with manpower and resources to the incident commander of the fire or other emergency. In the event of natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, staff members assist the County Emergency Management Office with manpower to staff positions in the emergency operations center. In 1996, the Fire Marshal's Office was asked to coordinate fire units from the County to assist with relief efforts in the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran along the coast. In 1998, the Office was again asked to coordinate firefighting efforts in the State of Florida with the wildfires that plagued the state. Most recently, the Office was asked to coordinate and deploy units from the county fire departments with the relief efforts in the counties in NC that suffered the effects of Hurricane Floyd.
The members of the Cumberland County Fire Marshal's Office are here to provide these and many other services to the citizens of this County.
The Firehouse Mascot
The Dalmatian's affinity for horses led them to their well-known name "Coach Dog" or "Carriage Dog." Their ability and agility to run between the carriage wheels and the horses hoofs and their stamina to run great distances made them ideal for traveling long and far with a coach. They guided the horses through the streets and guarded the occupants of the coach against the notorious highwaymen.
This ability to run with horse and carriage is the reason the Dalmatian was so widely used with the fire carriage of yesteryear. They would carefully and aptly guide the firemen through streets of busy traffic. In addition, it was observed that Dalmatians formed an amazingly tight bond with horses.
Today, with no horse-drawn carriages for fire trucks, the Dalmatian has become the firehouse mascot. Contrary to popular belief, the Dalmatian was not used because he could see through smoke or because he liked the color red, but because he was a useful tool in guiding the carriages.
"Protection of Life and Property Through Prevention"