North Carolina Volunteers Recall Blaze; Remember Fallen Brother

Fallen Salisbury Firefighter Justin Monroe was a member of Miller's Ferry Volunteer Fire Department since he was 14 years old.


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SALISBURY, N.C. -- The site of the Salisbury Lumber Company sat eerily quiet on March 9, two days after a morning fire claimed the lives of two of the city's bravest.

Firefighters Justin Monroe, 19, and Victor Isler, 40, were on one of the first crews to attack the blaze. Five other firefighters were injured, but have since been released from the hospital.

The Miller's Ferry Volunteer Fire Department was one of the many departments that provided mutual aid to Salisbury during the blaze.

But for these volunteers, the loss is even more personal because Monroe -- a part-time Salisbury firefighter since October -- had been a member of Miller's Ferry since he was a part of the junior program at the age of 14.

The department was first dispatched on the fourth alarm at approximately 8 a.m. and sent a full ladder company of seven firefighters. They first reported to Salisbury Station 1 on standby but soon made it to the scene of the fire as it was increased to five alarms.

"It went quick, they almost skipped the fourth alarm and went straight to the fifth," Firefighter Rusty Smith said.

Two and a half hours later, the volunteers would get word of the death of Monroe.

Firefighter Ken Womble said that while at the scene he heard the voice of a firefighter yell "Mayday" three times over the radio before the transmission faded out.

"It was the biggest fire this county has seen in years," Smith said as fellow firefighters sat by him in the firehouse, still shaken.

"What can I say? It was the largest commercial fire; the biggest I've ever seen," said Firefighter Josh Fox.

Fox, who is only one year older than his fallen brother, took the news tough and found it hard to talk about his friend.

"He knew what he was doing," he said. "He was very trustful, a really good guy."

Fox's father, Bobby, is the chief of Miller's Ferry and a captain with Salisbury. Isler and Monroe were both assigned to him.

At a press conference later in the day, Bobby Fox forced back his tears in order to honor Monroe. "I had the honor of working with him," he said. "I'm just going to miss him so much."

Safety Officer Todd Kidd was in the airport in Detroit when found out about the fire by watching it on an overhead television. He looked up and there was his department's ladder truck on CNN. At that time, only injuries were being reported.

"I was in total astonishment," he said. "I just dropped what I was doing in disbelief."

Memorial funds for the families of Firefighers Monroe and Isler have been setup at the Salisbury and Harrisburg locations of the Bank of North Carolina:

Salisbury
415 Jake Alexander Blvd W
Salisbury, NC 28147
Phone: (704) 633-3436
Fax: (704) 647-0951

Harrisburg
3890 Main Street
Harrisburg, NC 28075
Phone: (704) 455-1070
Fax: (704) 455-1260

Funeral Information