‘Took care of his community’: Firefighters remember long-time Burke County fire chief who died

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — Firefighters and first responders across the foothills are remembering a long-time fire chief in Burke County on Wednesday.

Former Salem Fire and Rescue Chief, John Stroup, died after volunteering at the fire department south of Morganton for 50 years, according to the department’s Facebook page.

“John was a caretaker. He took care of his family. He took care of his community. He took care of his firefighters and his department,” said Chief Charles Autrey.

Outside First United Methodist Church in Morganton, dozens of firefighters and EMS responders lined the walkway to the church.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty saw many people wiping away tears during the memorial.

Stroup helped train thousands of firefighters across North Carolina.

“It wasn’t a job to John, it was a calling -- a service to others and he had that servant’s heart,” said Charlie Watts, former Valdese fire chief.

At the age of 18, Stroup joined the Salem Fire Department on his birthday, rising through the ranks to become chief in 2009.

Not only was he a volunteer firefighter but he also worked for Burke County Emergency Services for three decades.

The department said that Stroup died Friday, a week after having a heart attack.

Firefighters said earlier in April, at the age of 68, he was still responding to calls even in the middle of the night.

Stroup was laid to rest Wednesday with full fire and EMS honors.

Salem Fire and Rescue said Stroup will be buried with ceremonial fire service traditions.

During the service, Stroup’s family was presented with a plaque for his service.

Outside the Salem Fire Department, a lengthy procession of fire trucks and ambulances could be seen. Then, dispatchers on the fire channel said one final goodbye.

“The members of Salem fire and rescue would like to thank John Stroup for his service to them,” the scanner message said.

Several families in the Salem Community gathered along the roadway to honor Stroup.

“Like a big void in our heart, because John was always there,” said Diane Rhodes. “If you had a gas leak in the middle of the night and you didn’t know what to do … call John”

Stroup was also recognized with the “Order of the Guardian” from the state fire marshal, an award that was supposed to be a surprise before his sudden death.

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