Emergency Responses Mirror NC Town's Population Boom

Dec. 7, 2023
"...The more density, the more calls," Mooresville Fire Chief Curt Deaton said.

Police, fire engine and ambulance sirens wail daily at any given hour along Brawley School Road at Interstate 77, exit 35.

The emergency vehicles also blare throughout the day on N.C. 150, Williamson Road and other main arteries of Mooresville.

It’s true: You’re hearing a lot more of them if you’ve lived in the Lake Norman town for barely a half-decade, let alone a decade or two or more, according to an analysis of emergency response call data by The Charlotte Observer.

Fire Station 5, at the geographic center of town, responded to a whopping 48% more calls last year compared with 2018, the data shows.

The station is on Balmy Lane, near the intersection of U.S. 21, Brawley School Road and West Wilson Avenue.

The rise in emergency response calls mirrors Mooresville’s population boom, police and fire officials told the Observer.

“It’s because we’re adding more people and businesses,” Mooresville Fire Chief Curt Deaton said. “Population drives response calls ... The more density, the more calls.”

Said Robert Dyson, Mooresville assistant police chief: “I was born and raised here, but we’re not the same small town” he grew up in, as people continue to move here by the tens of thousands.

How fast has Mooresville grown?

Mooresville went from 34,862 residents in 2013, when Fire Station 5 was built, to between 55,000 and 56,000 at present, Deaton said. That’s a roughly 58% increase using the lower 55,000 population number.

Iredell County government derives the population estimates from the number of approved homes of all types in town, Deaton said.

Mooresville’s other fire stations also are responding to significantly more calls since 2018, Mooresville Fire-Rescue data shows:

  • Station 2, on Knob Hill Road near Williamson Road and NC. 150, has responded to 43% more calls during that time, according to the data.
  • Calls are up 26% at Station 1, 457 N. Main St. downtown, and Station 3 at 1023 Shearers Road.
  • Station 4, based at Shepherds Volunteer Fire Department at 2014 Charlotte Highway ( U.S. 21), has seen response calls climb 22%, the data shows.

Need for station to the south

And soon, the town expects to announce the site of a planned station to serve its southern end, Deaton said. That’s where responding to calls takes the longest, he said.

“We have to get a station south of town,” Deaton said.

The department is “right at the 5-minute mark on average” responding to calls across Mooresville, Deaton said. Response can take 9 or 10 minutes in the Langtree area on and near Lake Norman, he said.

“We try our best to be at a home within 4 minutes,” a national standard for response times, Deaton said.

Four to 6 minutes after a heart stops beating, brain damage begins to set in, he said.

How many calls?

The fire department responds to about 24 calls a day, “and 58% of the time, we’re at more than one call at a time,” Deaton said.

Around 66% of calls are either medical- or crash-related, the chief said.

Firefighters also responded last year to 152 fire calls; seven explosions, none of which were bombs, and 300 hazardous, non-fire situations, Deaton said.

Hazardous, non-fire calls include everything from carbon monoxide reports to natural gas leaks to requests for help during severe weather, Deaton said.

The department also provides smoke detectors to homes, buying the detectors at a discount and with donations from businesses, he said.

In 2022, the department responded to about 9,700 calls. That’s down to about 8,800 this year, but only because Iredell County EMS decided to no longer dispatch Mooresville Fire-Rescue to 900 of the calls it now handles on its own, Deaton said.

123 staff members

The fire department employs 123 people, including firefighters and administrative staff.

Its $17.3 million fiscal year 2024 budget includes $1.7 million for a second ladder truck to respond to calls across Mooresville, Deaton said.

Deaton credits the Mooresville Board of Commissioners for providing funding to keep up with the population growth — money needed for more staff, equipment and stations.

“We’re a very competitive department as far as pay and benefits,” Deaton said. “We still have trouble getting people for some positions, but we’re not seeing where we cannot fill them.”

Dyson said the police department also has great community and town board support. Its reputation as a well run professional department has officers from the outside wanting to work here, he said, and vacancies are likewise minimal — at just six or seven out of about 140 total positions.

COVID prompted more police calls

Mooresville Police responded to 66,002 calls for service through Nov. 30, compared with 69,404 calls in all of 2022 and 75,863 in 2021.

Dyson said numbers were higher than usual earlier in the decade due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The department expects to respond to 72,000 calls by year’s end, up from 2022, Dyson said.

Property crimes such as shoplifting and thefts of items from cars prompt the most number of calls, as well as noise complaints, Dyson said.

“We don’t have the violence found in other communities,” he said. “Mooresville has always been a safe town.”

The department has 108 sworn full-time police officers, four part-time sworn officers and 27 full-time civilian employees, including three public safety officers, according to figures provided by town spokesperson Megan Suber.

About 73% of the department’s $17.4 million 2023–2024 operating budget is for personnel, she said.

©2023 The Charlotte Observer. Visit charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!