ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Following two shootings in a little more than two months, an Elizabeth City fire station is on track to get bulletproof walls. Shots were most recently fired July 15 near the station on Harney Street, which is manned 24-hours a day. At least one round went through a wall, into its sleeping and eating areas. “If somebody had been standing at the kitchen stove, they would have been hit,” said Elizabeth City Fire Chief Chris Carver.
Shots previously entered the building on May 12 and at least two other times going back to 2015, he said. The May 12 bullet just missed the living quarters. The shots appear to be random and not necessarily directed at the fire station. No one has been injured. But firefighters who spend long shifts there working, eating and sleeping are vulnerable — and worried.
“We have to make our guys safe,” Carver said. Plans are to cover the metal building in a material such as a brick façade or to line the interior with bullet resistant panels. The estimated cost ranges from $30,000 to $70,000. Bullet-resistant panels, often made with a fiberglass core, come in different thicknesses that stop bullets ranging from handguns to high-powered rifles. During a meeting Monday, acting City Manager Eddie Buffalo and the city council said they supported the work. They voted to let staff determine the best path forward. The council is expected to vote on a budget amendment later when the project is finalized. The work would be done by the end of the year, Carver said.
“We certainly do not want the firefighters to be in jeopardy,” said Mayor Bettie Parker, noting that residents in the neighborhood have complained over the years about gunshots.
The city’s main fire station on Halstead Boulevard has a brick façade. The Harney Street building was erected in 1997 as a temporary solution when the fire station on Elizabeth Street was condemned for having structural problems.
“Twenty-three years later, it’s still there,” Carver said.
It is considered too small for the area’s needs and would not withstand major hurricane force winds, he said.
There are plans to build a new station at another larger site nearby by 2023, according to a memo from Buffalo to city council. Buffalo also is the city’s police chief.
Harney Street sits in an older neighborhood next to a school and within a few blocks of several churches. It is considered a good area for a station, but the current lot is small for the large fire trucks, he said.
As it is now, drivers have to back into the parking bay so the trucks face the street. It would be safer and easier if trucks could pull in one side and exit the other.