Filed under: Fire and Rescue

Fire prevention month message: smoke alarms save lives!

The Asheville Fire Department is reminding everyone that October is Fire Prevention Month and that smoke alarms save lives!

From the AFD:Working smoke alarms can make a life-saving difference in a fire. That’s the message behind this year’s Fire Prevention campaign, “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!”

Along with firefighters and safety advocates nationwide, the Asheville Fire Department is joining forces with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) during Fire Prevention Month, which is October, to remind local residents about the importance of having working smoke alarms in the home and testing them monthly.

According to the latest NFPA research, working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

“In a fire, seconds count,” said Kelley Klope, PIO. “Roughly half of home fire deaths result from fires reported at night between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Home smoke alarms can alert people to a fire before it spreads, giving everyone enough time to get out.”

This year’s Fire Prevention campaign includes the following smoke alarm messages:

• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

• Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all do.

• Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.

• Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly.

• Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of the smoke alarm and understands what to do when they hear it.

The Asheville Fire Department will be hosting many activities during Fire Prevention Week/Month to promote “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives!” The following is a list of just some of dates/times/locations that AFD will be educating at local schools.

Oct. 1 Isaac Dickson 8:30-10:30
Oct. 2 Estes Elementary 8:30-12:00
Oct. 6 Jones Elementary 8:30-12:00
Oct. 7 Oakley Elementary 8:30-10:30
Oct. 8 Francine Delaney 8:30-10:00
Oct. 9 Haw Creek 8:30-10:30
Oct. 13 Asheville Catholic 8:30-10:30
Oct. 14 Bell Elementary 8:30-10:30
Oct 16 VIP at AHS 10am & 2pm
Oct. 20 Hall Fletcher 8:15-10:15
Oct. 21 Claxton Elementary 10:00-12:00
Oct. 22 Sandhill Venable TBA
Oct. 23 Vance Elementary 9:00-11:00

To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and activities, please contact the Kelley Klope, PIO for the Asheville Fire Department at (828)251-4011 or To learn more about smoke alarms and “Working Smoke Alarms Saves Lives”, visit NFPA’s Web site at

Leave a Comment September 29, 2014

AFD welcomes new engine with a push

The Asheville Fire Department’s newest vehicle is a top-of-the-line piece of public safety equipment. Its features include LED lights that use a smaller generator and leave more room for equipment, a wireless internet hotspot that enhances communication at a command post, a night-vision camera, airbag technology that protects firefighters and mobile hydraulic tools like the jaws of life that allow for greater range. It was also built nimble enough to navigate city streets, but with the climbing capability to handle the steep terrain in our area.

But high-tech capabilities do not trump tradition, and on Tuesday, Asheville Firefighters honored the long-standing tradition by pushing Squad 1 into downtown’s Gus Werhan Station 1.

The tradition goes back to the days of horse-drawn fire engines. Horses couldn’t back engine in, so firefighters had to push the vehicles back into the bay after responding to fires. Click below to see video of the event:

Leave a Comment September 24, 2014

Asheville Fire Department award ceremony honors year’s achievements


AFD Chief Scott Burnette (at podium) awards Engineer Zach Wetmore the Medal of Valor.

The Asheville Fire Department promotes firefighters throughout the year, but saves the recognition and pinning ceremony for a somber and notable day for firefighters: September 11.

This year’s ceremony, held at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center, observed the promotions or advancements of 49 firefighters as well as the recognition of those instances in which firefighters had saved lives in emergency situations.

Of note was the award of the Medal of Valor to Engineer Zach Wetmore in recognition of a June 12 incident in which he and a civilian pulled a woman from her burning home on Sand Hill Road. Wetmore was off duty when he noticed flames coming from the home. He and a neighbor found the owner and pulled her from the house.

The Medal of Valor is second-highest award firefighters can receive.

Though the AFD is most visible in fire scenarios, the ceremony also noted actions of Asheville firefighters who saved lives in situations like cardiac arrest and floods and who assisted in childbirth.

IMG_0318 “Today, we are honoring the men and women who continue to serve and protect our community through their commitment to the Asheville Fire Department,” said Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer speaking at the event. “Most of us who do not work in the fire service can’t even imagine the level of trust and support that these men and women must have for one another. I am proud to say that our Fire Department is recognized as one of the premier fire and rescue departments in North Carolina. The dedication to our community shows in the diligent commitment to improve the quality of service provided and the enhancement of safety for you, the firefighters who protect us.”

The following firefighters were recognized for retirement, promotion or advancement:
Recognition of Retirees:
Carlton Denning, Division Chief
Mike McCoy, Captain
TJ Swafford, Captain
Rick Emory, Captain
Mike Hartsell, Captain


Deputy Chief:
Christopher Budzinski

Assistant Chief:
Wayne Hamilton
Barry Hendren

Deputy Fire Marshal:
Brian Ronie
Assistant Fire Marshal:
Amy Pollard
Apparatus Officer:
Bryon Silvers

Eric Johnson
Patrick Crudup
Steven Wickham
Adam Wilson
Nathan Rogers
Dustin Cooper
Bjorn Larson

TJ Fortenberry
Angie Bell
Josh Walton
Patrick Boland
Sam Robertson
Bradley Duncan
Adam Hoffman

Carla Ball
Phillip Padilla
Tim Zajac
Edan Douek
Jay Bettencourt

Senior Firefighter:
Eric Wardwell
Amber Hartsburg
John Cram
Kevin Proffitt
Gregory Miller
Joseph Meliski
Benjamin Lynch
Joshua Jenkins
Scott Mirkin
Avery Gibbs
Dan Young
Sean Garden
Jacob Hannon
James Kodaras
Brad Maselbas
Patrick Worley
Matthew Hooker
Neil Spencer
Isaac McCurry
Adam Ross
Wallace Sexton
Weston Hall
Peter Morton
Brandon King

Leave a Comment September 17, 2014

Asheville Fire stations take up Energy Challenge

helmet-idea-bulbThis spring, the City of Asheville Fire Department took up a nation-wide challenge to see which of its three battalions, throughout the department’s 12 stations, could make the biggest reduction in energy use over a three-month period. With the results tallied in June, the winner is Battalion 2 with a total energy reduction of 12% over last year’s numbers at Stations 2, 3, 6 and 10. But the big winner was the department as a whole and the City of Asheville, as the friendly competition offset 24 tons of greenhouse gasses and saved the AFD $2000 in energy costs.

The Chief’s Energy Challenge is a nationwide effort issued by the fire departments of Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh inviting fire departments to reduce their energy use by 10% in one year, and 20% by year three.

“The results produced by these battalions is a testimony to the innovative and cost effective ways we can reduce our environmental impact and still maintain a high level of service to the safety of the public,” said AFD Chief Scott Burnette.

The AFD’s participation was a collaboration with the Office of Sustainability, and during the challenge, the Sustainability team worked directly with the department to find ways to cut energy use and costs. Many of those, says Energy Analyst Kerby Smithson, can be used going forward in an effort to beat the one-year 10% goal.

“From LED lights to low-flow shower heads, the steps these firefighters took and the ideas they had were practical and resourceful,” Smithson said. “And it’s really a testament to how we all can affect change by making small changes in our habits, like turning off lights and appliances.”

“We’re happy to be able to move forward with these steps,” said Lt. Angie Bell at Station 10. “It is an eye opener to see how these things add up to a real impact in savings.”

The results of the Chief’s Energy Challenge were recorded by the Office of Sustainability and reported to the Chief’s Energy Challenge North Carolina organizers.

Leave a Comment August 6, 2014

Asheville Fire Department announces new Chief Officers

The Asheville Fire Department is proud to announce the promotions of three of its Chief Officers into key leadership positions.

Wayne Hamilton and Barry Hendren have each been promoted to the position of Assistant Fire Chief, and Chris Budzinski will now serve as Deputy Fire Chief.

left to right: Assistant Fire Chief Hendren, Assistant Fire Chief Hamilton, Deputy Fire Chief Budzinski

left to right: Assistant Fire Chief Hendren, Assistant Fire Chief Hamilton, Deputy Fire Chief Budzinski

“We are very excited about the new leadership team, and anticipate they will serve the City of Asheville Fire Department well in moving it forward to the next level,” said AFD Chief Scott Burnette. “Each of these chief officers brings to the table a diverse set of skills and abilities that will add to the continuous improvement of the department and contribute to the service of this community.”

Wayne Hamilton has been with the department since 1989, has 20 years’ experience as Fire Marshal. Barry Hendren, also with the department since 1989, most recently served as Division Chief-Safety and Training. Chris Budzinski has been with the department since 2001, and prior to promotion served as Acting Divison Chief.

All three underwent specialized training and a rigorous examination and performance review process including interviews with internal and external stakeholders and city department heads, as well as a performance review by their peers.

Leave a Comment June 19, 2014

Asheville Battalion Chief Joy Ponder Selected for Fire Service Executive Development Institute

Exciting news from the Asheville Fire Department: Battalion Chief Joy Ponder has been awarded a scholarship to the Fire Service Executive Development Institute, a year-long program designed to advance the leadership development of firefighters serving at the top of their field. Ponder is a graduate of the four-year National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program and in 2012, became the department’s first female Battalion Chief.

PonderFull announcement from the AFD below:

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) announced that Joy Ponder, Battalion Chief, has been accepted into the 2014 session of the Fire Service Executive Development Institute (FSEDI). Now in its second year, the FSEDI is a year-long leadership-development program developed by the IAFC to provide new and aspiring chiefs with the tools they need to advance and have successful and productive careers. Chief Ponder has been awarded a scholarship which will cover expenses associated with travel for three sessions to be held in Northern Virginia during the coming year.

Chief Ponder started with the Asheville Fire Department in 1998. She has her Associates Degree (AB Tech), Bachelor’s Degree (Mars Hill College) and a Master’s Degree (UNC-Greensboro). During her tenure she has received numerous certificates and trainings including Executive Fire Officer (National Fire Academy), Fire Officer III (State of NC), Advanced Professional FF (NC), Chief Fire Officer Designation (Center for Public Safety Excellence) and Fire Officer Designation (CPSE).

“Joy Ponder shows leadership qualities necessary to move the Asheville Fire Department forward today and into the future,” said Chief Scott Burnette. “I am grateful that the IAFC is able to help enhance her leadership abilities and provide her the tools she needs for a successful career as a fire service leader through the Fire Service Executive Development Institute.”

The FSEDI is made possible through a grant by the Motorola Solutions Foundation’s Public Safety and Security Institute.

The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.

Leave a Comment April 9, 2014

Asheville Fire Chief, Water Director tapped for top Professional Association roles

The City of Asheville is proud to announce that two of the organization’s top leadership have been recognized by professional associations as top practitioners in their field.

Image 6029 Burnette
Asheville Fire Department Chief Scott Burnette was awarded Career Fire Chief of the Year by the North Carolina Fire Chiefs Association at a Feb. 8 ceremony. This is the highest honor the NCFCA can bestow upon a member and speaks to the outstanding professionalism of Chief Burnette as well as the esteem with which he is held by his peers.

Water Resources Director Steve Shoaf was chosen by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) as vice-president of the international organization, which advocates and educates for clean water across the North American Continent. Shoaf has served as North Carolina Section Director since 2012 and is one of only five people chosen for the position by the organization’s board of directors. He was elected to the post on January 19.

“We are extremely proud of Scott and Steve for these well-earned positions,” said Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson. “This kind of recognition at the state and national level speaks not only to the quality of their professionalism and leadership, but also to the level of service the City of Asheville provides.”

Burnette joined the AFD in 1995 and was appointed Fire Chief in 2009. Under his leadership, the department has achieved Accredited Department Status, a status achieved by less than two percent of departments worldwide. Burnette oversees a department of 256 uniformed firefighters.

Shoaf Joined the City of Asheville in 2009 after serving as Utilities Director for the City of Burlington for 21 years. He has been an AWWA member since 1990 and has served three terms on the North Carolina Section of the AWWA board.


Leave a Comment February 10, 2014

AFD gears up for Fire Safety Week with tips for preventing kitchen fires

October is Fire Prevention month, and the week of October 6-13 is a week to focus on fire prevention. The Asheville Fire Department has kicked it off with these tips for preventing kitchen fires:

It’s time for Fire Prevention Week, and from October 6-12 the Asheville Fire Department is joining forces with the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to remind local residents to ‘Prevent Kitchen Fires.’ During this year’s fire safety campaign, fire departments will be spreading the word about the dangers of kitchen fires–most of which result from unattended cooking—and teaching local residents how to prevent kitchen fires from starting in the first place.

According to the latest NFPA research, cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Two of every five home fires begin in the kitchen—more than any other place in the home. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of home fire-related injuries.

“Often when we’re called to a fire that started in the kitchen, the residents tell us that they only left the kitchen for a few minutes,” said Kelley Klope, PIO. “Sadly, that’s all it takes for a dangerous fire to start. We hope that Fire Prevention Week will help us reach folks in the community before they’ve suffered a damaging lesson.”

Among the safety tips that firefighters and safety advocates will be emphasizing:

· Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling food.

· If you must leave the room, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

· When you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, stay in the home, and use a timer to remind you.

· If you have young children, use the stove’s back burners whenever possible. Keep children and pets at least three away from the stove.

· When you cook, wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves.

· Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, towels, and anything else that can burn, away from your stovetop.

· Clean up food and grease from burners and stovetops.

Fire Prevention Week is actively supported by fire departments across the country. Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.

As part of Fire Safety Month, AFD will be presenting the Fire Safety Trailer to the following schools, dates and times:

Oct. 2 Haw Creek Elementary 8:30am – 10am
Oct. 3 Vance Elementary 10am-12pm
Oct. 7 Bell Elementary 8:30am-10am
Oct. 9 Sandhill Venable TBA
Oct. 10 Hall Fletcher 9:30am-11:30am
Oct. 14 Oakley Elementary 8:30am-10:30am
Oct. 21 Francine Delany 8:30am-10am
Oct. 23 Jones Elementary 8:30am-12:30pm
Oct. 22 Estees Elementary 8:30am-12pm
Oct. 29 Claxton Elementary 10am-12pm
Oct. 30 Isaac Dickson TBA

Media is invited to attend. Please contact Kelley Klope, PIO at 828-768-1437 with questions regarding Fire Prevention Week/Month.

Leave a Comment October 2, 2013

Public/private partnership restores high-speed communication to Asheville’s emergency responders

Fire engines and police cruisers alike lit up on September 17 at the Murphy-Oakley Community Center and Fire Station Building, but they were not responding to an emergency. The blue and red lights were flashing in celebration of a high-speed communication connection that means better and faster service responses by Asheville’s emergency responders.

The City of Asheville Information Technology Services Department has been working on restoring the fiber-optic reconnection since 2009, and the accomplishment was the result of a great community collaboration. Asheville-based Education and Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas (ERC), which received a grant in 2012 in partnership with North Carolina-based MCNC to enhance its fiber-optic network in Western North Carolina, has partnered with the City of Asheville to connect 12 Fire Stations and 4 Police Stations to dispatchers using its new fiber optic network. The move provides the fastest emergency alert notification available and saves the City of Asheville the approximately $5 million it would have cost to install its own fiber network.

“In a project of this magnitude, there are a lot of moving parts,” said Jonathan Feldmen, the city’s Chief Information Officer. Feldman presented plaques to the ERC’s Executive Director Hunter Goosmann as well as representatives from the Reed Memorial Baptist Church, which allowed the city to use its steeple for a wireless connection while the communication system was in transition.

Joined by firefighters and police officers who rely on the ability to respond quickly in emergency situations, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy spotlighted the increased public safety and even its impacts on the city’s accreditation. “Today we are talking about how to make sure people are even safer,” she said. “To the IT Department, this shows your commitment to making sure the City of Asheville is wired and at a low cost.”

In 2012, Asheville City Council approved a franchise agreement with the ERC in support of the partnership that provides the high-speed fiber-optic access.

Leave a Comment September 20, 2013

Asheville Fire Department recognizes promotions, achievements and sacrifice

In December, 2012, the Asheville Fire Department responded to an auto accident on Lyman Street in which a vehicle wound up upside down in the French Broad River with the driver trapped inside.

The team of firefighters that worked the scene would grow to 16 strong, and involved water rescue and dive team personnel, but they managed to save the life of the woman in the vehicle. Those are the kinds of stories the department reflects on each year at its promotion and recognition ceremony. Some stories, such as the French Broad rescue, make headlines. Other times, they are not as widely noted. But in each case highlighted by Chief Scott Burnette at the September 11 ceremony, a life was saved.

“These are all people who are alive today because of the actions of our firefighters,” Burnette said.

The incident recognition has become a tradition at the annual ceremony, held in conjunction with the remembrance of first responders and citizens who perished in the 2001 attacks in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In remembering the sacrifice of those fallen, Burnette said, we also honor those who put themselves in harms way in the interest of saving lives.

Mayor Terry Bellamy thanked the firefighters of Asheville for their “unwavering dedication.”

“I know the people of Asheville, Buncombe County and Western North Carolina appreciate the service you provide each and every day,” Bellamy said. “You all answer a call that most of us only think about answering. You run in when others run out.”

Below are those recognized at the ceremony, including promotions, notable achievements and firefighters who have retired since last year’s ceremony.

Retirees in the last year:
Andrew Henderson, Captain
Herbert Roberson, Engineer
James Fox, Captain
Joseph Heafner, Engineer
Johnny McCulloch, Engineer
Mike Bellows, Captain
Keith Gillespie, Captain
Michael Roland, Captain
Ronald Morrow, Captain
Thomas Brown, Engineer
John Gaines, Senior Firefighter
James Cowan, Battalion Chief
Gordon Silvers, Senior Firefighter
David McFee, Assistant Chief
Harley Haug, Senior Firefighter


To Safety Training Officer:
Shane Mackey
Chris Johnson
Julian Anders
Dan Padilla

To Captain:
Eric Johnson

To Lieutenant:
Clint Brown
Michael P. Riley
Stephen Burnette
Mike Stageman
Steve Wickham
John Eldreth
Nathan Rogers
Adam Wilson
Bjorn Larson
Rich Rauschenbach

To Engineer:
Chad Bryson
Barnaby Raikes
Zach Wetmore
Steve Fesperman
Nathan Miller
Jeremy Brooks

To Senior Firefighter:
Jacob Hansbury

Deputy Fire Marshal Tracy Coggins, Advanced Firefighter
Deputy Fire Marshal Rodger Martin, Advance Firefighter

Assistant Fire Marshal Jeff Payne, Advanced Firefighter
Assistant Fire Marshal Tre Allen, Advanced Firefighter

Recognition of professional achievements:
Fire Marshal Wayne Hamilton received Fire Marshal Designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence on Professional Credentialing and Fire Plans Examiner from the International Code Council.

Arson Investigator David Cutshall received Basic Law Enforcement Training Certification at A-B Tech, Evidence Collection Technician from the International Association of Arson Investigators and Practical Dynamics and Modeling from the National Fire Academy.

DFM Dewayne Fender received Origin and Cause-National Fire Academy
DFM Casey Silvers received Origin and Cause-National Fire Academy, Level II Fire Inspector.
Acting Deputy Fire Marshal Amy Pollard received Fire Inspector Level II.
Deputy Fire Marshal Rusty Freck received Certified Fire Investigator Technician.
John “Sam” Roberson received Certificate of Merit (RIT Team and Training).
Barry Hendren received the GiGa Innovative Solutions Award.
Zach Wetmore and Philip Padilla recognized for outstanding work with the Asheville City Schools Foundation Celebration Community Choice Award-IRL Program.

Asheville Way Award recipients:
Rich Rauschenbach
John Presley
Anna Pigman

Recognition of significant events:

Childbirth complications – Apr. 14, 2013
Barry Sheppard
Joel Sherwood
Michael G. Riley
Jacob Hannon

Cardiac arrest – Dec. 23, 1012
Andy Randalls
Sam Robertson
Will Willis
Carla Ball

Cardiac arrest – Apr. 9, 2013
Roger Cantrell
Kyle Corn
Jacob Hansbury
Wes Rogers
Landon Davis
Rich Rauschenbach

Life Saved, accidental stabbing – July 10, 2012
Eddie Wyatt
Frank Morris
Nathan Miller

Life Saved, MVA at French Broad River – December 2, 2012
Stephen Burnette
Adam Hoffman
John Presley
Robert Mitchell
Amy Pollard
Partick Boland
Neil Spencer
Matthew Pride
John Eldreth
Steve Fesperman
Wallace Sexton
Nathan Rogers
John Ellis
Ross Parkinson
Christopher Rice
Chris Johnson

Cardiac Arrest – Dec. 28, 2012
Ken Radford
Jim Hitesman
Mark Jameson
Luke Miller

Cardiac Arrest – July 16, 2013
Shane Valliere
Matt Justice
Garry Shackelford
Scott Mullins

Infant Choking – July 30, 2013
Zachary Wetmore
Spencer Tetrault
Eric Wardwell
Josh Jenkins

Cardiac Arrest – Aug. 15, 2013
Rafael Bango
Bradley Duncan
Jimmie Causey II
Thomas Lael
Isaac McCurry
Paul Walker
Matthew Cutshall
Joel Sherwood
John Cram

Trench Rescue – Oct. 4, 2012
James Cowan
Carlo Marzella
Mike Coggins
Ken Edwards
Clint Brown
Erik Parcell
Jeremy Edmonds
Paul Dehart
Jason Gunn
Larry Morrow
Stan Presley
Paul Walker
Erik Stalte
Eric Johnson
Rick Miller
Mike Russell
Jay Bettencourt

Cardiac Arrest – Feb. 14, 2013
Nathan Rogers
Joey Hammond
Patrick Worley

Cardiac Arrest – Nov. 8, 2012
Stephen Fridl
Eugene Delong
Chad Brooks
Blake Baker

Cardiac Arrest – Nov. 1, 2012
Anna Pigman
Keith Merrill
Roy Thomas
Scott Mirkin

Certificate of Merit – Boone RRT Response – June 8-9, 2013
Chris Budzinski
Shane Mackey
Jeff Lyons
Chad Brooks
Jacob Hannon
Amy Pollard
John Butler
Phillip Padilla
Eric Wardwell
Paul Walker
Adam Hurdt
Nathan Rogers
Tim Zajac
Julian Anders
Jeremy Knighton
Adam Hurdt
Michael Hartsell
Angie Bell

AFD retirees who passed in the last year:
James “Moon” Waldrop, Engineer
Bobby Ingle, Engineer
Eddie Teague, Sr. Engineer
Rayburn Whitt, District Chief
Jack Waites, Captain
James Whitworth, Captain
David Bryson, District Chief

Leave a Comment September 17, 2013

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