Bridge Named for Fallen N.C. Fire Chief

Jan. 08--MAXTON -- When sharp, high-pitched tones interrupted white noise on the crackling radio, Clerissa Butler knew it wouldn't be long before her father dashed out the door.

"Even if my Daddy knew what he was walking into in the middle of the night, he'd still go because it was answering a cry for help," said Butler, 30, of Maxton. "Our hearts wrenched when something like that goes off because someone needs help, but it's something we grew to admire.

"He's off to save the day. It was just his passion."

Family, friends and fellow fighters gathered at Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday to remember Samuel Butler, who was killed while on duty in 2012. Butler was chief of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department at the time.

County and state officials presented signs for an honorary designation to the bridge over Interstate 74 in Maxton to be known as the Chief Samuel Butler Sr. Bridge.

"When I saw the signs, I had to stop on the side of the road to catch my breath," Butler said. "I know he's honored."

To earn honorary designation, county commissioners must submit a request to the state Department of Transportation. The state's Road Naming Committee reviews it and makes a recommendation to the Department of Transportation for a final decision.

There are about 550 honorary designations in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Transportation. The Chief Samuel Butler Sr. Bridge is one of about 10 in Robeson County.

Butler was killed in a wreck on Interstate 74 in Maxton while responding to a crash on Jan. 8, 2012. He was 52.

Hundreds of firefighters and lawmen packed Purnell Swett High School for a memorial service in 2012. A procession of about 75 fire trucks and rescue units was escorted by helicopters from UNC Carolina Air Care and the N.C. Forest Service as Butler's casket was taken to the graveside service.

Butler had been a volunteer with the department for 19 years. He was promoted to chief in 2011.

"He just generally enjoyed helping people," his daughter said. "He didn't have to be here; he wanted to be here."

Butler supported his family by working two jobs. He also spent time coaching youth football and baseball for his sons' teams.

But it was at the fire department where Butler logged so much of his personal time, and the family wouldn't have wanted it any other way, his daughter said.

He felt it was his duty to be active in the community, as well as support firefighters all over the state, she said.

In 2010, Butler was late to his own birthday party because he was in White Oak carrying a flag in a color guard at a funeral for a firefighter he didn't know.

"We lost somebody good that we can't replace," said Todd Allen, president of the Robeson County Fireman's Association.

Allen and Butler became friends through volunteer work for the fire department. They enjoyed fishing trips and spending time socializing with family and friends, Allen said.

"I thought it was a very good way to honor Sam," he said of the signs along Interstate 74. "This will be here forever, for generations."

Staff writer Amanda Dolasinski can be reached at or 910-486-3528.



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