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By Lee Ann Sides GarrettSalisbury Post
Tripp Crosby is not a Salisbury firefighter. But this week, he is.
Crosby, a firefighter with Rocky River Fire Department, is part of a four-man crew from Stanly County who stepped in to help staff a Salisbury Fire Department station in the wake of Friday’s tragic fire at Salisbury Millwork.
Firefighters from more than 14 different fire departments are manning fire stations while local firefighters recover, regroup and grieve. The fire claimed the lives of two local firemen, Justin Monroe, 19, and Victor Isler, 40, and injured four others.
“When one’s hurting, we all step up,” Tripp Crosby said. “There are no county or state lines in a time like this.”
Charlotte Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Wilson explained that local fire officials requested the relief.
“We said, ‘Yes we can,’ and we will be here until they say leave,” he said.
Wilson and Concord Battalion Chief Lee Readling are coordinating the huge group of firefighters who rotate coverage of local stations. Wilson said the first to arrive were friends of Salisbury firefighters who knew they would need help.
“Firefighters heard the calls on the radio and responded,” Wilson said.
As word spread, Readling said, departments from Fayetteville, Gastonia and elsewhere began calling the Concord Fire Department to offer help because they couldn’t get through to Salisbury departments.
“Departments from South Carolina were calling offering resources,” Readling said. “The response is incredible.”
Readling says the last time authorities mobilized resources like these was when a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 2000.
Wilson added that the amount of help being offered “is unprecedented.”
A list of the where the crews now serving in Rowan County came from includes departments in Davie, Guilford, Iredell, Gaston, Lincoln, Alexander and Stanly counties, as well as units from Troutman, Statesville, Gastonia, High Point, Monroe, Winston-Salem, Rocky River and Franklin. Wilson said he hopes they haven’t missed anyone.
Wilson said he and Readling established what each department needed by using the National Incident Management System, as well as ranks, abilities and resources, then assigned crews to cover them.
“It’s the same job in a different place,” firefighter Dennis White said. A volunteer firefighter at Locust Fire Department, White also works full time for the Charlotte Fire Department. White is part of a volunteer crew from Locust that reported to Salisbury Station No. 1 to begin a 12-hour shift at lunchtime Sunday.
“I fought three fires in Charlotte last night,” White said. “It’s just what we do.”
Wilson, the Charlotte battalion chief, said some firefighters are working 12-hour shifts and others work 24 hours. Some stations can spare extra firefighters during their regular shifts. Those firefighters are paid by their departments. Others are here on a strictly volunteer basis.
“We’re always helping someone, most of the time it’s a stranger,” White said. “It’s just that much easier to help out a fellow firefighter.”
Crosby, White, Wilson and Readling agree that firefighters are part of a brotherhood.
“It’s a lifestyle. It’s a culture,” Wilson said. “It’s a calling.”
Readling’s and White’s fathers were firefighters, and both say danger is something they accept as part of what they do.
“When something like this happens, it’s a solemn reminder of the nature of the job,” White said.
And stepping in to help, Wilson said, “is one of the ways we honor their sacrifice. By keeping the departments going. That’s what those guys would want. They would do the same thing.”
Salisbury Chief Bob Parnell said help and support knows no borders.
“And we are grateful for that which our community has seen,” he said.

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