Rocky Mount Fire Department

City Fire Chief Corey Mercer, left, and state Fire Marshal Mike Causey pose for photographers Sept. 14 with the certificate showing the Rocky Mount Fire Department has received the highest rating for a fire department in North Carolina.

The Rocky Mount Fire Department is in an elite category in the Tar Heel State and in the nation.

During the Sept. 14 City Council meeting, state Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal Mike Causey presented city Fire Chief Corey Mercer with a certificate to show the fire department has improved a notch to the highest rating for a fire department in North Carolina.

The step up from a Class 2 rated to a Class 1 rated fire department also should help a homeowner in Rocky Mount in terms of how much he or she pays for homeowner insurance in the future.

And the fire department has maintained international accreditation status since 2003, which means the department is recognized for having high standards.

Causey emphasized what City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said moments earlier to the council, in that the fire department has achieved what less than two-tenths of 1 percent of the fire departments in the nation have achieved.

And Causey said the issuance of the certificate on Sept. 14 makes Rocky Mount’s fire department the 15th fire department in the state to have the Class 1 rating. There are more than 1,200 fire departments in the state.

“So it’s a huge honor,” Causey said. “It’s a big deal for the City of Rocky Mount.”

In North Carolina, the state Department of Insurance and the Office of State Fire Marshal regularly inspect communities as part of a state response rating system.

What eventually results is the rating of a fire department from a Class 1, which is the highest, to a Class 10. Generally, a rating of Class 10 means no protection in case a fire breaks out or a property is more than six road miles from a fire station.

As for the city fire department having the top rating, Causey said, “My guess is that it will be a big benefit to economic development and recruiting businesses here to Rocky Mount.”

Causey said the fire department had to jump through many hoops to achieve the top rating, but he said the department’s personnel did not do this alone and had a lot of different folks participating.

“This is a team effort,” Causey said.

At the same time, Causey said of the top rating, “It’s one thing to get there and it’s another thing to keep it. So it’s a lot of hard work ahead of you.”

Mercer expressed his appreciation to Causey for taking the time to come to Rocky Mount to present the honor.

“Just like you said, it’s a team effort,” Mercer said.

Mercer said this is a combination of the men and women who respond to the calls for service and the department officials standing with him in the City Council chamber, as well as support from Small-Toney and the council.

Mayor Sandy Roberson told Mercer, “Congratulations, chief.”

Causey said although the homeowner insurance ratings are going to be decided by the insurance companies, he and his team believe Rocky Mount homeowners over time are going to be paying lower premiums.

The Rocky Mount Fire Department’s history can be traced back approximately 124½ years.

According to the city’s website, the first organized fire company in Rocky Mount was approved by the then-Town Council on March 11, 1896.

The company consisted of 26 African American men and they operated a ladder wagon and bucket brigade from the 100 block of East Thomas Street downtown, the website said.

During the Sept. 14 council meeting, Small-Toney also said congratulations are in order for city Development Services Director Will Deaton and the city Development Services Department.

That is because Development Services earned a pair of awards from the statewide chapter of the American Planning Association.

The association’s vision is to advance planning through leadership in education, research, advocacy and ethical practices.

The department received the Marvin Collins Small Area Plan Award, which each year recognizes agencies and individuals that have completed outstanding plans, programs and projects.

The department received the award for efforts in making the Atlantic-Arlington Corridor Study become a reality.

The document is designed to help guide city leaders, developers, landowners and residents when development proposals come forward for the Atlantic-Arlington corridor.

The document focuses on an area along and close to Atlantic Avenue south from U.S. 64 to Tarboro Street, where Atlantic becomes Arlington Street, and along and close to Arlington south of Tarboro to East Raleigh Boulevard.

Development Services also received the Great Transformation Award, which recognizes places that have been retrofitted and re-energized.

The department received the award in connection with Rocky Mount Mills, which is the mixed-use development of Capitol Broadcasting Co., which is the parent of television station WRAL.

The department worked with Capitol Broadcasting on the transformation of Rocky Mount Mills, which is along Falls Road and on the south side of the Tar River.

And the city officially designated the 98-acre complex and village as a local historic district through public input and engagement policies.

Deaton, in prepared remarks, said receiving such recognition for local planning efforts in Rocky Mount is great.

“We look forward to even greater transformations and implementation of plans and studies in the future,” Deaton said.