by Carol Taber
ROLESVILLE — Rodney Privette is a Rolesville icon He’s been serving the citizens of Rolesville as a business leader — owner of Privette Insurance and a director of Wake Forest Federal Savings & Loan Association — and a public servant as the volunteer fire chief for more than 20 years.
Privette’s father, June, was among the first Farm Bureau Insurance agents in Raleigh in the 1950’s. In 1962, wanting to be able to offer his clients a diversity of insurance products as well as work closer to home, the senior Privette established an independent insurance agency in a back room of what was then the Neal Rogers General Store in downtown Rolesville.
The agency is now located next door at 102 South Main Street in the building that older residents will remember as the Rolesville Drug Store.
After graduating from Louisburg College in 1975, Rodney joined the family business.
The Rolesville Rural Fire Department started in 1958. Volunteers reportedly had nothing except some army gear and old overcoats. June Privette was among the department’s early volunteers.
In 1975 when Rodney joined, his father was an active participant on the Fire Department’s governing board. Rodney worked his way through the department ranks as secretary, lieutenant, captain, training officer and assistant chief.
In 1992, Privette became the fourth man in department history to be appointed to the position of fire chief.
Under the leadership of H.E Perry (1958-1974), Wade Young (1974-1977) Roy Ed Jones (1977-1992) and now Rodney Privette (1992-present) the Rolesville Rural Fire Department has grown and developed along with the town of Rolesville.
One of the biggest
The Rolesville Rural Fire Department is one of the largest fire districts in the county, covering more than 32 square miles with more than 600 road miles.
It also has six schools in its district: Rolesville Elementary, Middle and High schools, plus Thales Academy, Sanford Creek Elementary and Jones Dairy Elementary.
As late as 1999, the department was an all-volunteer force. The department hired its first paid staff in 2000. Currently, the combined force has 12 paid staff and 31 volunteers working three shifts.
Privette says the department is always looking for a few more men and women over 18 years of age who live within the Roseville Rural Fire District and willing to volunteer.
Volunteers receive 240 hours of training within their first year, including the Wake County Fire Essentials Class.
There are also required monthly training sessions that take place at the station. Volunteers are required to have 36 hours of continuing training yearly.
Privette has seen the role of the fire department and that of the fire chief expand over his 23 years as chief. The department does a lot more preplanning as new subdivisions, schools and infrastructure are built in the community.
The goal, he says, is to have plans in place should a fire break out in a specific location. Privette says he’s grateful for the forward planning of the Fire Department Board of Directors and the town commissioners.
New structures require new equipment. As and example, when Rolesville High School was being planned and built, the board of directors and town commissioners worked together to purchase a ladder truck for the fire department.
Another change during Privette’s tenure as chief has been the department’s role as a first responder.
When the Emergency Medical System became a county-wide service in 2005, area fire departments became the first responders for nearly all emergencies. While the department cannot transport injured individuals, all the paid staff and some of the volunteers have EMT certification.
All the firemen have emergency medical training. According to Privette, his department averages about 900 calls out yearly, roughly 60 percent are medical and about 40 percent are fire related. The most common type of residential fire, he said, is cooking/kitchen fires.
All for community, family
The department is an active part of Rolesville’s community life. They participate in parades and July 4th fireworks as well as providing fire safety education in the local schools. Privette smiles as he talks about the decades old tradition of Rolesville elementary students walking over from the school to tour the station during National Fire Prevention week, which is recognized the second week in October.
This year, the paid department staff wore pink T-shirts in support of Breast Cancer Awareness.
In addition to meeting regularly with his counterparts in the police department (Rolesville Police Chief Bobby Langston) and town (Rolesville Town Manager Bryan Hicks), Privette is also the Eastern Region representative for the Wake County Fire Commission.
The fire chief has input into decisions that town residents don’t think about. He has given input on zoning issues that affect fire safety and prevention in the new subdivisions.
The original design for the 401 by-pass made it easy for fire trucks to be able to cross the medians to cut down on first responder response times. NCDOT scraped that design and it fell to Privette to assure the public that his department took training classes specific to superstreets, practiced and timed calls to ascertain that response times would not be adversely affected.
With the increasing number of responsibilities made on the fire chief as Rolesville continue growing Privette foresees a time when the job of chief will have to become a paid full-time position.
When not at the insurance agency or working in his role as fire chief, Privette enjoys working in his yard and restoring classic cars. His 1965 Plymouth Barracuda is his favorite among the six cars he currently owns.
But the thing Privette enjoys more than anything is cooking for his kids, daughter-in-law and grandkids. He positively lights up when he talks about weekends when his son Coy and his wife, Niki, with their three children, Hunter, Carson and Andrew, and daughters Brandi and Mary and son Will converge at his home for Sunday night dinner.
For all the changes that have come during his 40 years of service to the fire department and the people of Rolesville, the things that he has loved most have not changed,
“The brotherhood of the fire department, being able to help the community and to help my neighbors,” he said.
Rolesville citizens obviously appreciate their fire chief. Rodney Privette was voted the 2015 Wake Weekly Person who Best Represents Rolesville.