Every volunteer fire department becomes a second family for its members, and Chief Andy Webster will tell you that the Cool Springs (NC) Volunteer Fire Department, just outside Statesville.
If anyone should know, it’s Webster. Back in 1960, his father was a charter member of the department. Eight years later, Webster came along, and before he mastered a tricycle he was hanging out at the station. Over time he learned the building’s hiding places and learned the trick to opening the front door when it was locked. “I like to tell people it’s where I first saw Santa Claus,” he says—the man in red never missed a Christmas party at the firehouse.
When Webster turned 16, he officially joined the department. That was 34 years ago, years punctuated by tragedy but also filled with good times. So when the time came to think about building a new station with all-new bells and whistles, it was bittersweet. But, the chief and his fellow firefighters were not about to let nostalgia get in the way of progress, especially when the community’s safety was at stake.
In 2013, they set about planning for a new firehouse, and one thing they decided it needed were some Big Ass Fans. Webster had seen his first Big Ass Fan years before in Florida, at a factory that builds fire trucks. He’d walked inside to do a final inspection of a new tanker truck and was surprised at how cool the building felt despite the Florida heat. Looking up at the biggest fan he’d ever seen, he naturally said, “That’s a big-ass fan you got there,” little knowing how true that was. Back home, he saw more Big Ass Fans at a nearby factory and was convinced they were exactly what the department needed.
In 2017, Webster turned out the lights and closed the door for the last time at the old station, and the Cool Springs Volunteer Fire Department moved into its new 24,000-square-foot facility just across the road. The local newspaper ran a story, quoting Webster saying, “It’s a great day, the day we open our new firehouse. Some may say ‘station,’ but it’s a firehouse. It’s where people live, and where the community comes together.”
The building also houses Iredell County’s EMS Services and a satellite office of the county’s Sheriff’s Department. And, inside are three Big Ass Fans: two over the apparatus bay and one in the EMS department. Webster says everyone is “tickled pink” with the fans. “We get in the triple digits here in summer, and the humidity is miserable. With the fans, you don’t feel near as hot. You can be anywhere in the apparatus bay and feel the breeze,” he says. For all the memories he has from the old firehouse—of Christmas parties with Santa, annual Ham Dinners with his mother’s homemade biscuits, and just hanging out with his second family—he’ll tell you it was never as comfortable as the department’s beautiful new home.
As for that old firehouse across the road, well, it’s now a John Deere dealership. And, who knows? There might just be some Big Ass Fans in its future too. The building’s former residents would vouch for them.