Weaverville – Two Weaverville firefighters were presented with new badges at a badge pinning ceremony where their family members attended Thursday evening (Nov. 11th). Firefighters Lee Norton and Shannon Buncannan passed tests and training to become engineers with the department.
Weaverville Fire Chief Scott Harris thanked those in attendance at the ceremony, especially the families of those firefighters being promoted, and said he wants to make the two families, those at the firehouse and those of the department members’ families, more like one.
“I want to thank the staff who put in the time and effort into the selection process that brought us to the point where we are this evening,” Harris told the 25 or so gathered for the event. “They have taken great pride in making this process challenging but fair for the candidates. We feel we have had some very deserving members promoted tonight, so that opportunity wasn’t taken lightly from our side just because they work with us.”
Harris then went into the history of the Maltese Cross, used by most fire departments on their vehicles, badges, and signage. According to Harris, the Maltese Cross dates back to the knights of St. John in the Crusades, who would wear capes and carry the Maltese Cross to protect their fellow crusaders from flaming projectiles launched by their adversaries.
“With their fellow troops engulfed in flames, the knights would approach on horseback, rip off their capes, and use them to extinguish the flames on their fellows…as a reward for their bravery, the crosses worn by those knights were decorated and inscribed by their admirers,” explained Harris. “The legend of the Maltese Cross grew as it became associated with the admirable qualities of loyalty, bravery, [and] defenders of the weak.”
After the history of the cross, firefighter Norton was called up and given two challenge coins, one of the chief’s and one of the department’s, and Norton’s wife, Kaitlyn, was given an engineer’s badge to pin on her husband’s uniform. Buchanan was then called up, and his wife, Brittney, repeated the process.
What is an engineer?An engineer differs from a firefighter in that they are responsible for driving the firetruck that delivers the water to the hoses to fight the fire. The vehicle is known as a pumper truck.
“[The] engineer is the one operating the pump, driving the truck. There are a lot of mathematical friction laws and things that go into operating a truck. It’s more than just turning right and left. It’s knowing pump formulas, pump friction laws, [and] proper gallon per minute flows in the lines. Being able to determine, when you pull up to a house by its size, how many gallons of water it’s going to take to put it out,” explained Harris.
He also said it was a progression rank, moving up from the firefighter ranks toward the officer ranks. “Now they’re responsible for that truck, getting their crews there safely, and operating the fire grounds safely.”
The new engineers asked what the promotion meant to him, Norton said, “It’s rewarding. It’s nice to see everything I’ve worked for start to pay off. It’s one of my favorite positions on the truck.” Norton joined the Weaverville department in January of this year after being a volunteer with Mars Hill since 2003 and became a paid firefighter in 2017.
Asked how it felt to be promoted to engineer, Buchanan told the Tribune, “This has been a lifetime dream. I’ve done this for 19 years, but I came over here this past year.” Buchanan volunteered at the Clearmont Fire Department in Yancey County and then went to work for the Enka Fire Department for 19 years. He dropped out of the fire service for a few years but is now back.
Harris told the Tribune that the department is still looking to hire two more engineers and now another firefighter to get the station back up to full staff.