Fire Dept

title - WFD new EmblemBURNING PERMITS

You need a permit to burn in Wilkesboro. Open burning can be a nuisance, and Wilkesboro officials have established rules to reduce that nuisance. Check with Wilkesboro Fire Department before you burn. Following one agency’s regulations does not guarantee compliance with other agencies.

The Division of Forest Resources (NC DFR)  is primarily concerned with fire danger, while the NC Division of Air Quality (NC DAQ) deals with air pollution.

  • fire-pitOpen burning that is more than 100 feet from your home and within 500 feet of a woodland normally requires a permit from the NC DFR. If you want to start an outdoor fire, contact WFD and a local forest ranger to find out if and how you can get a permit. You also may contact DFR headquarters at 919-733-2162 or visit its web site,
  • The NC DAQ is part of the NC DENR. The NC DAQ is responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of North Carolina’s air. For more information about the division and laws for protecting air quality, visit the DAQ’s web site (

Smoke from Outdoor Fires is Unhealthy to Breathe and Pollutes the Air

There are a lot of misunderstandings about outdoor or open burning in North Carolina. Some people think it's OK to burn trash in barrels because they've always done it that way. It's not. Others think it's always OK to burn leaves and branches in the fall. But that's not so in cities and counties that pick up yard waste.

The NC DAQ enforces the state open burning rules and many local governments have additional restrictions on outdoor fires. Violating these rules can be expensive -- with fines as high as $25,000 or more for serious cases or repeat violations. Substantial fines can be assessed, even for minor or first-time violations.

recycle-reduce-reuseReduce, Reuse, Recycle

A lot of open burning isn’t necessary. Brush can be composted, ground up for mulch, piled up for wildlife, or just left to rot. Newspapers can be recycled. Old attic junk can be given away for someone else to reuse. By making a few sensible choices, you can reduce the amount of throw-away material you create in the first place. The possibilities are endless. Take a look at what you’ve decided to burn. Isn’t there something else you can do with it? For more information about reducing, reusing or recycling waste, contact the Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance at 919-715-6500 or 


If It Doesn’t Grow, Don’t Burn It


The basic message of the state open-burning rule is simple: Only leaves, branches and other plant growth can be burned – nothing else. That means no trash, lumber, tires or old newspapers. If local pickup is available, you can’t burn even leaves and branches.

Do not burn:

  • no-open-burningGarbage, paper and cardboard
  • Tires and other rubber products
  • Building materials, including lumber and wood scraps
  • Wire, plastics and synthetic materials
  • Asphalt shingles and heavy oils
  • Paints, household and agricultural chemicals
  • Buildings, mobile homes and other structures
  • Anything when the air quality forecast is Code Orange, Red or Purple
  • What is allowed under the law? Homeowners can burn yard trimmings if it’s allowed under local ordinances, no public pickup is available and it doesn’t cause a public nuisance. Yard waste must not include logs more than 6 inches in diameter and stumps. Other allowable burning includes campfires, outdoor barbecues and bonfires for festive occasions.

Landowners or contractors also can burn vegetation to clear land or rights-of-way, provided that:

  • Burning is done on the site of origin.
  • Prevailing winds are away from built-up areas and roads. If winds are blowing towards public roads, fires must be at least 250 feet away.
  • Fires are at least 1,000 feet away from occupied buildings.
  • Burning is done between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and nothing is added outside of these hours.

Other occasions where open burning is allowed – with NC DAQ approval – include fires for: training firefighting personnel; managing forest lands or wildlife habitats; controlling agricultural diseases and pests; and disposing of materials generated by hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. You may need a permit from the NC Division of Forest Resources or local governments before you burn, even for allowable purposes. However, permits do not excuse a person from following the NC DAQ’s open-burning rules. 

Smoke Can Hurt You and Others

difficulty-breathingWhy does the state have such strict rules about open burning? Because smoke and soot from outdoor fires can cause serious health problems and pollute the air. Fires also can burn out of control, destroying forests and burning down homes. Smoke from a burning trash pile contains many pollutants that can cause serious health problems and damage the environment. Although smoke from a fire may not bother you, it could be a nuisance and serious health threat for your neighbors, particularly if they have respiratory conditions such as asthma or emphysema. Potential health effects include: lung and eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, asthma attacks, coughing and even death. For more information on the health effects of pollution from open burning, see the US Environmental Protection Agency's (US EPA) website and do a word search for "open burning."

 Do not burn on "Air Quality Action Days"air-quality

When forecasts are Code Orange, Red or Purple, please do not burn. For air quality forecasts, go to website click here or call (888) 784-6224.



title - WFD new Emblem


  Campground open during music festivals:  Merlefest™ Carolina in the Fall™ 


The Wilkesboro Wastewater Treatment Plant becomes one of several host campgrounds for Merlefest™ and the Carolina in the Fall™ music festivals. The camping is sponsored by the Wilkesboro Fire Department. It was started in 1998 and the campers that stay with us have dubbed it “Sewerfest”.

Our campground is located at 700 Snyder Street, Wilkesboro, NC, which is about 1 mile east of downtown Wilkesboro and 2 miles east of Wilkes Community College. We have 69 acres of land and use the majority of it for camping. The Town of Wilkesboro Wastewater Treatment Plant is also located on the same property but we have never had any complaints about any odors in the 15 years of hosting campers for Merlefest. Most visitors say the area looks more like a park rather than a sewer plant. 




Camping reservations 
will be available in
January 2018. 

Campground Map

Sewerfest email 





  • We have approximately 500 tent sites and 150 RV sites that have electric (30 amp) hookups; however, each RV Sites does not have water or sewer hookups. We also have a dumpsite that you can empty your holding tanks before hitting the road. Upon arriving, there are several yard hydrants around the grounds for your convenience to fill your water storage or other containers. 
  • We are famous for our late night music pickin’ sessions of our guests. You have music to enjoy at the festival itself and at the campgrounds. Be sure to bring your instruments and join in the fun! 
  • The WFD campground also offers two heated & air conditioned shower houses that have all the hot water anyone could ask for.    
  • We offer free shuttle service to and from the festival. A local church provides the shuttle buses and the drivers greatly appreciate any donations that are received. These proceeds are put in a fund by the church for their Youth Fund. Shuttles run hourly to and from the festival locations. 
  • We have ice for your coolers.
Sewerfest Camping - Image by ProFlight Solutions LLC

During MerleFest:

  • We offer firewood to all campers.
  • There is food and drinks for sale during the festival. Fresh biscuits with country ham, sausage and tenderloin are available to purchase in the mornings. We sell Pepsi products.   

There have been people from almost all 50 states to stay with us. We almost always have people from Finland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, England, Canada and Australia. The different range of people we have here at the campground come from all walks of life including firemen, service technicians, doctors, lawyers, business owners, insurance adjusters, law enforcement, college students to retired couples and any walk in between. We also have some visitors that devote their lives to following music festivals all over the country. 

no fireworks

We accept US Currency only by check or money order – no foreign currency will be accepted. All proceeds go to the Wilkesboro Fire Department as a fundraiser for the Retired Firemen’s Fund. 

Any questions, please email or call telephone number at top or bottom of the page. 

Sewerfest email          336-667-2391



title - WFD new Emblem


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title - WFD new EmblemFIRE CHIEFS



Jason-SmitheyFire Chief Jason Smithey
2011 - present  

 Former Chiefs              Term 
 Bud Molnar  2011-2011
 Lee Sudia  2010-2011
 Keith Reid  2008-2010
 Mike Testerman  2002-2008
 Robert Berry  2000-2002
 Carter Perkins  1994-2000
 Dennis R. Riddle  1986-1993
 Jay Parker    1980-1987
 William Edgar Harris  1971-1979
 Henry Smithey  1965-1970
 Robert "Bob" L. Parker  1963-1964
 Fred Shoemaker  1960-1963
 Carl Bullis  1932-1959
 Robert Cranor   1928-1932


title - WFD new Emblem



Why does a fire truck come when you call for an ambulance?

Because firefighters can and do get there first, and time is critical in a medical emergency. Every full-time Wilkesboro Firefighter is cross-trained in Emergency Medical Services. What does that mean to you, a citizen phoning 911? Simply read on...

Iemergency-1st-responsen the early days, fire stations were strategically located so the crews could quickly get to burning buildings. Obviously, time is an important aspect of firefighting, because flames can rapidly spread through a building. The ability to quickly respond to a fire provides more time to rescue people inside, and save property by suppressing the blaze in the early stages. It soon became apparent that the firefighter's ability to "get there fast" could be used for other types of emergency response, such as heart attacks, strokes and trauma.

Four minutes is a critical time frame for someone who has experienced a heart attack, injury, or other illness that makes them stop breathing. The heart and brain have a better chance of full recovery they receive oxygen in four minutes or less. After that, a person can suffer brain damage or worse. Our firefighters, many of them educated to the level of emergency medical technician-basic, can use life saving techniques including defibrillation and medications to help prevent death or permanent injury. These life saving techniques are much more effective if they can get to a patient within the first four minutes.

When you dial 911 for a medical emergency, expect a Wilkesboro fire truck. The expertise that they bring is truly lifesaving.  

Why does the Fire Department bring the fire engine just for a simple inspection?

Two reasons:

First, these inspections are conducted by on-duty personnel that must be ready to respond to an emergency call from the field.

Second, an important part of the value of the public safety inspection is to familiarize your local firefighters with the buildings and business in Wilkesboro. While they check for hazards and consult with business owners on how best to eliminate or minimize the likelihood of a fire, they also familiarize themselves with access points and the layout of the facility. Why do firefighters break out windows and cut holes in roof during a fire? Firefighters ventilate smoke, superheated, poisonous, or explosive gases for safety and visibility. This allows firefighters to get inside the building to find and extinguish the fire, thereby reducing property damage. This also reduces the chance of a possible dangerous explosion.

Why do you block traffic lanes at auto accidents, sometimes more lanes than necessary?

We block traffic lanes for the safety of our personnel and our patients. Blocking extra lanes keep our personnel safe when they go back to our apparatus to get more equipment and help protect the victim we are trying to stabilize. Over 25 firefighters are killed or injured each year while working at incidents on streets and highways. fire-hydrant

Why do I need to keep weeds and bushes away from fire hydrants on my property?

Weeds and bushes should be kept three feet from fire hydrants for visibility and accessibility. 

How do I schedule a Fire Drill?

Training is provided by Wilkesboro Fire Department. We can assist you in organizing and conducting an orderly evacuation, and evaluating results with management of the facility. To schedule a Fire Drill contact Wilkesboro Fire Department at (336) 667-6228. 

gasWhat if I smell Gas in my home?

You will need to get out of the house and then call 9-1-1 for the Fire Department from outside of the house or from a neighbor's house. The use of a phone could cause the gas to ignite if you called from inside the house. 

Why do firefighters work 24-hour shifts?

Firefighters work 24-hour shifts, because it would take more firefighters to cover 8 hour shifts. Full-time Firefighters at Wilkesboro work a 53 hour work week and the 24 hour shift allows this. This type of schedule is the most cost-effective work schedule to provide fire protection and is the most common.  Wilkesboro Full-time firefighters work 24-hour shifts while our part-time work either 4 hour or 10 hour shifts. 

Why do we see fire department crews at the store?

Because the personnel work a 24-hour shift, they must eat their lunch and dinner at the station. At times firefighters all eat the same meal, as a group. The crews pay for their food out of their own pockets. So, after the equipment is checked and the housework completed, one of the fire trucks will then make a quick trip to the grocery store to purchase the food for the shift. At times you may see crews eating at local restaurants. All crews remain in service to respond to calls during this time. 

What other responsibilities do firefighters have other than fighting fires? 

Emergency calls represent only part of the work of a typical fire department. The number of residential and commercial fires has steadily decreased over the years due to a variety of factors including improvements in construction, a greater public awareness of the risk factors leading to fires and a significant reduction in smoking nationwide. Fires, however, are only some of the emergencies to which the Fire Department responds. Nearly eighty percent of the Fire Department's emergency responses are, in fact, calls for medical aid, including illness/accidents at home and work, and injuries resulting from vehicle crashes. Other calls for emergency response involve hazardous materials releases, technical rescues, response to fire alarms and other calls for public assistance. Firefighters also spend much of their time maintaining equipment, conducting semi-annual fire hydrant testing, developing pre-incident response plans, conducting fire inspections to all businesses and multi-family occupancies in the Town of Wilkesboro, training for all types of emergency responses, teaching life safety programs to citizens and school age kids, and filling out reports and paperwork associated with these activities. 

My smoke detector is chirping, what does that mean?smoke-detector

Most modern smoke detectors will chirp to alert you the batteries are low, you should replace the batteries and test your smoke detector. Smoke detectors can be purchased at any hardware or large commercial department store. 

How often should I change the batteries in my smoke detectors?

We recommend you change the batteries in your smoke detectors every 6 months, an easy way to remember is to change batteries when you reset your clock for daylight savings time. 

Does the Fire Department fill fire extinguishers?

No, Wilkesboro Fire Department is not equipped to fill fire extinguishers at this time. However, you can find local fire extinguisher businesses in the yellow pages to refill them.

Can I burn leaves in my yard? Can I have recreational fire in my backyard?

See burning permit information. 

I'm interested in becoming a Firefighter, where do I start? Can I ride along with the Fire Department?

Yes, citizens can request to ride along on a fire engine. For more information contact the Fire Chief at 667-6228 or email

 How much does a Fire Truck cost responding to a fire?

Fire Engines and Ladder Trucks are supported by taxpayer revenues and there is no charge for these pieces of equipment for residents. 

1st-aidHow do I sign up for a First Aid or CPR class? 

Wilkesboro Fire Department does not currently offer First Aid or CPR Classes to the public. You can, however, contact Wilkes Community College to gain these lifesaving skills. 

Why do firefighters turn on fire hydrants and flow water from them when there is no fire?

The Wilkesboro Fire Department's semi-annual fire hydrant testing takes place from March 1 to November 15. During this time, all town hydrants are tested to ensure they are operable and able to produce the required water pressure when needed. Pressure readings are taken during testing to determine the amount of water available from the hydrant. Also, testing can sometimes cause a temporary discoloration of water and loss of pressure in nearby homes. The discoloration is not harmful in any way and can be cleared up by running the water for a few minutes. Because testing must be done during normal operating hours, it will be impossible to know in advance where or when the testing will take place in any specific area. We do apologize for any inconvenience however, testing is necessary.

If you see a hydrant that is out of service or seems to be experiencing problems, please contact the Town of Wilkesboro Town Hall at 336-838-3951 between 8 AM to 5 PM and Wilkesboro Police Department Communications Center at 336-667-7277 after hours. The Fire Department tests hydrants, but does not perform maintenance on them.

Hydrant testing not only ensures the protection of Wilkesboro's residents, it also is an evaluation indicator used by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), which rates cities according to the fire protection they offer. The ISO rating resulted in the elevation of the Wilkesboro Fire Department to a Class 5 protection rating in 2006.

questionHow do I submit a question?

Email questions to the Fire Chief at his email