Engineer Nick Wylie was recognized for his service above self in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in the Acme-Delco-Riegelwood (ADR) community, and was presented with the Fire Chief Award during the 2018 Kernersville Fire Rescue Department’s (KFRD) Annual Christmas and Awards Banquet.
In announcing the Fire Chief Award to Wylie, KFRD Chief Chris Langham said the award is given to people who have shown sacrifice and service before self.
North Carolina was hit hard last year with two major hurricanes that ravished the state. Wanting to help people in areas of devastation, the KFRD chose to send down two groups to aid the ADR Fire Rescue Department in Columbus County and the community they serve.
“ADR is near the coast and the Cape Fear River runs on the backside of the district,” Wylie said.
Among the first group that went down to ADR was Wylie, along with Firefighter Chase Mabe, Firefighter Austin Hall, Engineer Nick Hardy, Firefighter Travis Sloan, Captain Jason Robinson, Captain Mike Hedgecock, and Firefighter Bailey Schucker. They were in ADR from August 30 – September 6.
Wylie noted that they were also joined by the Illinois Task Force, which was trained in swift water rescue.
“We signed up to go down there after we received an email asking for people to go,” he said. “When we first went down, we went to Whiteville and then went to ADR. They thought (the hurricane) would just blow through as a category five, but when it sat out there on the water and just spun, they had to deal with the rain.”
Wylie explained that ADR had to deal with not only the initial flooding from all the rain, but once that began to subside, water from upstream on the Cape Fear River came rushing their way, flooding the community again. He explained that the force of the water was unlike anything he had ever seen, the way it swept buildings away in an instant and vanished in a blink of an eye.
With all of the rain, Wylie said the only way to get to ADR was by Army high water vehicle.
“Because of the rain, it changed what we had planned to do,” he said. “There was a lot of water. Pretty much the whole district was under water when we got there.”
Wylie said their new mission was now to support the ADR Fire Rescue Department, assist in water rescues, give out ready to eat meals and tarp houses.
Wylie noted that, luckily, the ADR Fire Rescue Department was on a small hill, and therefore was not underwater; however, that didn’t mean things were easy.
While the other firefighters went out into the field, Wylie said he was at the command center dealing with their daily logistics, which was stationed at ADR Fire Rescue Department.
In dealing with logistics, each day Wylie had to figure out where everyone’s food was coming from, what they were going to do each day, what houses to tarp, and since there was no way into or out of the community, he had to arrange for supplies to be brought in by helicopter three separate times.
“Even the military couldn’t get their vehicles in,” he said. “The helicopter drops were where we got all of the MREs (meals ready to eat), tarps and other supplies.”
Wylie explained that the ADR community is very large in terms of land, but the population is only around 4,000. He added that there were people in the area who had evacuated and others who didn’t.
“There were about 10 houses that were running off of generators that were homes of the elderly. We sent out people daily to check on them,” he said.
Wylie noted that the biggest problem they had at the ADR Fire Rescue Department was that the septic tank backed up due to overuse. He explained that in a station that usually only has about 15 people, they were supporting 50-60 people who were using the bathroom, showering and preparing meals.
This was another problem Wylie was tasked with solving, which he did by bringing in porta-potties for everyone to use while they were working on the septic system.
In total, Wylie said between the two groups that were sent down to ADR, they spent 14 days there.
During the week Wylie and the other firefighters from the KFRD were in ADR, he said they gave out 20,000 bottles of water and 6,000 MREs.
He explained that the first hot meals residents and volunteers had came from the Salvation Army in Wilmington several days after they were there, and the first cold drink they had came after he left.
“People don’t realize what a hot meal or cold drink does for a person,” he stated. “I worked for four days trying to get ice down there, but it didn’t happen until I left.”
Wylie explained that when Chief Langham came down with the second group from the KFRD, which got there the day Wylie left, they brought a lot of things with them.
“Best Logistics sent down a refrigerator trailer for ice, and they brought food from First Christian Church Ministries and cupcakes from Cake & All Things Yummy,” he said.
During his time in ADR, Wylie was away from his family – wife, Mandy, and their son, Dakota.
“I was in the military on two deployments and it’s hard to be away from your family, but I feel like if Kernersville was in the same situation, that I would hope people would come and help us,” he said. “It was nice, though, that we could call home.”
Wylie served in the Marines as a radio operator/MUX operator for six years and served two tours in Iraq. He noted that he got out of the Marines at the level of corporal.
Wylie started with the fire service as a junior firefighter in December 1999 and has been with the KFRD for nine years.
He shared how training and serving in the military helped him lead crews in ADR.
“I have been through several trainings and classes to prepare myself for response to natural disasters,” he said.
Wylie explained that during his first deployment, he was mainly on patrol and on convoys outside the wire; however, on his second deployment, he was in a command center doing a lot of what he did in ADR after Hurricane Florence.
“That experience, I feel, helped me fall right into place and go to work in the command center,” he said. “The operations chief from Illinois Task Force was retired from the Air Force. That military connection helped us work together.”
When Wylie returned home, he and his family went around to several churches and organizations requesting donations for the ADR Fire Rescue Department firefighters, and were able to raise $6,600.
“Those firefighters volunteer there, but still have a full-time job. If they aren’t working, they don’t get paid, and several of them lost their homes,” he said, adding that the volunteer chief lost his business. “We wanted to give them some money to help them out in any way we could, whether it was for gas or groceries, or just to go out to eat.”
Since being down in ADR, Wylie said he has kept in touch with the ADR Fire Rescue Department’s chief.
“They are trying to get back to as normal as possible,” he remarked.
Before presenting Wylie with the award, KFRD Chief Langham shared two letters he received about the outstanding role Wylie played in leading crews during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in ADR.
“When they arrived in ADR, it was bad. The people had nothing and it was complete chaos. The center of everything became that fire department. Relief efforts and rescue was bad, and they had to have somebody start organizing, so I just wanted to paint that picture for you,” he said, as he began to read a letter he received from KFRD Captain Hedgecock.
Though not in its entirety, Hedgecock wrote, “Engineer Wylie was assigned to the command center at ADR. The remaining members from Kernersville were assigned to various tasks. Engineer Wylie took over very quickly in his new role, showing continuously that he was in his element. Though I will never know all of what he accomplished throughout our five days stationed at ADR, it is because of him that the community progressed forward at the rate it did. Engineer Wylie performed at this level with only short breaks for the entire duration that our team was located at ADR.”
He continued, “All hats and tasks that Engineer Wylie performed and held during his time at ADR, I will venture to say that no other in the ranks at KFRD could have done a better job.”
ADR Chief Campbell also submitted a letter thanking KFRD firefighters for their “magnificent job.” He shared in the letter that firefighters tarped over 280 homes that had roofs torn off during the hurricane, accomplishing 50 of those in one day and assisting in 77 water rescues that resulted in no fatalities.
Campbell then wrote, “I feel it is important that I must join in recommending Nick for this award. His outstanding performance during Hurricane Florence’s deployment during the week at our station needs to be recognized. Nick’s leadership in logistics was second to none.
The leadership and professionalism that was displayed took one of our members to a higher level in his performance – Jonathan ‘Pooh Bear’ Smith. (Wylie’s) guidance, patience, and leadership encouraged Pooh to become more attentive to detail. It has made a huge impact on his life. On Nick’s behalf, his tireless efforts displayed each day as all the crews were scurrying each morning to get ready for deployment as well as his unending energy each night to make sure that the next morning’s supplies, (etc.) were given over the radio to our EOC before he laid down to rest.
If not for his hard work and dedication, we would not have been successful in the tasks we faced during this time. It was his knowledge and pure grit that got the needed supplies for the 4,733 citizens in our 105 square mile district. We are still getting compliments from all of our hard work. On ADR’s behalf, please endorse Nick for the award that he so definitely deserves. He might be known to y’all as Nick, but he’ll always be known to us as Radar. Yeah, he’s that good!”
When Wylie received the Fire Chief Award, he said it was a little overwhelming.
“It was a little overwhelming to me because we were just doing our job,” he said. “But it was nice to receive the award.”

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