Charlotte firefighters serving the community on and off duty

This group was established in 1984 by mostly Black firefighters

Charlotte firefighters serving the community on and off duty

As the needs in our city continue to grow, the coronavirus has complicated reaching those people most in need.

While we’re used to seeing firefighters be the first to respond in crisis, a special group from the Charlotte Fire Department is on duty even after hours.

“There’s a lot more to this job than just being a firefighter on a truck. We get into the fire service because we want to help people and give back.

“We want to make this department look like the community,” said Capt. Jackie Gilmore of the Charlotte Fire Department.

The added complications of COVID-19 seem to have made these volunteers even stronger, finding new ways to help.

They are volunteers from the Fraternal Order of Progressive Firefighters of Charlotte which was established in 1984 by mostly Black firefighters.

“We give back to the community, and we’ve been out feeding and clothing the homeless and the less fortunate members of our community,” Gilmore said.

All of the volunteers are also members of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters which helps promote interracial progress throughout the fire service.

“Some of us grew up in Charlotte, and we’re familiar with what the communities look like and their needs,” he said. “We’re able to go out and serve where some other groups may not be able to.”

Fire departments in many cities don’t often resemble the communities they serve.

“When we’re out serving in the community and they see a Black firefighter they can say, ‘Hey that can be me on the truck.’ We’re just setting examples.” Gilmore said.

As the number of fires has declined over recent decades, many residents now have interactions with members of the fire service only when they dial 911, typically for a medical emergency.

In turn, the Charlotte Fire Department wants to reflect the faces of the community.

“We want to recruit and mentor minority firefighters. The backgrounds that we come from were not from the firefighting community.  When we hire, our mission is to mentor these guys to help them with their job duties and to make them promotable,” Gilmore said.

However, the bigger goal for these men and women is their constant and consistent service to the Charlotte community that right now is struggling because of the financial ramifications of the coronavirus.

“We focus on establishing unity and enhancing the alliance of firefighters,” Gilmore said. “Top of mind is always the interests of the community.”

Over the past few weeks, they packed up and delivered “We Care” bags to the homeless community in uptown Charlotte.

Life on the streets isn’t easy, but this collective is focused on doing their part for the common good of everyone.

“It’s important for us to not only work in our community but to serve our community.”

“We knew Thanksgiving might be tough for some, so we wanted to help alleviate the stress on families.”

With the help of Food Lion, the members of the Progressive Firefighters of Charlotte were able to deliver holiday turkeys to help families set their tables to come together and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

With all the challenges facing our community, it is obvious that this team of caring firefighters will stay in place for as long as it takes, and they are working and serving every day.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.