Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Cowee Fire and Rescue hosted the 36th annual Singing in the Valley Saturday at the Historic Cowee School, raising $3,080 for the department.
“This year’s event was a great success,” said Cowee Fire Chief Dustin Pendergrass. “We changed from the traditional evening of singing and barbecue, to a day of activities, demonstrations, giveaways, singing, and barbecue. The addition of the 9/11 Memorial Service created a very powerful service that I feel showed that not only Cowee Fire/Rescue but Macon County will never forget the lives that were lost during this tragedy and we will always be stronger because of it. To see our community come together and show their support of the Fire Department is truly wonderful and a blessing.”
The annual event provides much needed funds for the department, which is primarily operated by volunteers.
“After expenses are paid we will be able to place approximately $2,500 into our auxiliary account,” said Pendergrass. “Our Auxiliary Unit is comprised of a very dedicated group of men and women who volunteer countless hours to ensure that the firefighters have meals during large emergency scenes, snacks and drinks for each Thursday night training and they also cook and clean during all of our events. Their dedication to our fire department is amazing.”
Cowee Fire/Rescue held their first meeting at Cowee School in 1982. Members signed up and began training while the community rallied together and began raising money. The next nine years were spent training, fundraising, acquiring land and a fire truck, and the construction of the main station. In July of 1991, the ribbon was cut and the doors were open. Twenty-five years later, Cowee Fire Department has now grown to include a sub-station in the Oak Grove Community and a second sub-station being constructed on Mason Branch Road. The department currently operates with 45 volunteers, one career firefighter, and five junior firefighters.
The event kicked off at 2 p.m. with demonstrations of the fire gear volunteers wear, a demonstration of an extraction from a vehicle involved in a crash, a bicycle rodeo and car seat check for families, and games and snacks. Pendergrass noted that the day-long event was important to reach out to the community and build relationships with the people they serve.
“Community events involving any branch of emergency services are very important,” said Pendergrass. “In many situations when the community needs our assistance, it is during an emergency when they are depending on us for help. To be able to meet and greet during ‘good’ times allows us the opportunity to fellowship with the citizens that we serve. These events can also be used as safety and prevention opportunities. I believe that is also gives the citizens an opportunity to see that we do so much more than just fight fires.”