Fire chief retiring after 30 years of service
By Miles Layton
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Edenton Fire Chief Craig Forlines is retiring.
“This job – it's in my blood – but I figured it is time to let some new folks step up,” he said. “We've got plenty of good and qualified folks. Time to let some of the young folks step in.”
Forlines has 30 years of service on the front lines of emergency management not only as a firefighter, but as a paramedic. He has achieved top emergency management posts in Pitt, Duplin and Cumberland counties. He served as assistant fire chief in Morehead City and as Oak Island's fire chief.
For the past five years, Forlines has served as the town's fire chief.
“I am very sad to see him leave – he has been a terrific chief and valued member of the Town’s leadership team,” said Town Manager Anne-Marie Knighton. “I enjoyed working with him and had tremendous confidence in his abilities as a fire chief and leaned on him a lot for advice and guidance on non-fire related issues.”
Forlines' last day on the job will be Dec. 1, so the town is in the process of searching for a new fire chief, Knighton said.
“My goal is to hire a new chief prior to chief’s retirement,” Knighton said.
Faith has played a big role in Forlines' long career.
“Being a paramedic, being a firefighter, being a fire chief – you can only do what God allows you to do,” Forlines said in an emotionally charged voice. “Some you lose, some you don't. But if you're not there to help, you won't win any. Sometimes you can save people because there's a plan and He has something else for them to do. Sometimes you can't. You just have to do your best.”
Edenton's fire department has seven full-time firefighters plus the chief and 25 volunteers.
“It's a great department. The guys are tremendous and will pitch in and do whatever is asked,” he said. “The community is great. I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys to work with.”
Three decades on the front lines can leave behind a lot of memories – good and bad. Probably the most harrowing thing that Forlines said he was ever involved in was when a storage container holding highly explosive chemicals was breached by a forklift at the military's port in Morehead City. If that drum exploded, then 780,000 pounds of explosives would have ignited too. Forlines said the explosion would have destroyed everything within a 20-mile blast zone. He directed the logistical efforts of first responders from multiple emergency management agencies as assisted by the U.S. Marines in their quest to prevent this catastrophe.
“I was never scared, just concerned. That was the only time I ever called my wife (Jennifer) and told her that I loved her while I was on a fire scene,” said Forlines, who has been married 27 years.
Forlines has saved more than a few lives during his long career. Governor Pat McCrory awarded him a citation for his service arising from saving folks exposed to CO2. Forlines went above and beyond by helping folks survive Hurricane Matthew.
“I've rescued people from all kinds of situations,” he said. “You don't do this job for notoriety.”
Forlines recalled one story about how a lady spun out on a rainy day and drove into a canal.
“When she spun out, the car flipped and ran into a big canal,” he said. “The car ended upside down in the water that was muddy, murky. She was able to dial 911 before the water started coming in her car. Luckily, we were very close, so we dived in, popped open the window and pulled her out.”
Another time, Forlines spoke of rescuing a man who was buried as he was doing trench work.
“What happened was the workers were putting in a sewer tap. The man bent over and a wall of dirt collapsed on him,” he said. “The man was completely covered up – buried alive. The men on top called 911. We all started digging and got to him in time to get him out. He's still alive today and doing well. So there's been lots of interesting things during the past 30 years.”
There's no rest for the faithful, so don't expect Forlines to sit back, watch daytime television or maybe listen to the scanner. No, Forlines will be teaching the basics of fire inspection code enforcement to college students at six area colleges.. Also, Forlines will continue to busy by building his airplane.
“I've got plenty to keep me occupied,” he said.
Speaking of repairing things, Forlines and firefighters repaired and restored a 1923 R.E.O Speedwagon fire truck. Runs great. Siren too. As with Forlines' legacy – so far – that truck is something that will endure. Much thanks for your service Chief Forlines.