9 Mile Ridge VFD opens helio pad

Thursday, July 23, 2009
Photos and story by Steven Looney

An Air Evac helicopter flew over, circled and landed for the first time at the new landing pad constructed at the 9 Mile Ridge Volunteer Fire Department this past weekend. Chief Gary Gilliland has 12 certified firefighters with four in training, for the remote fire station on 9 Mile Ridge road, the highest point in the county. The rural area fire department covers about a five-mile area with an estimated 700 to 800, some part-time, most full-time residents. The grand opening held on Saturday, July 18, was to celebrate the expansion of the fire department building with two additional bays to house equipment and the lighted helicopter-landing pad. Chief Gilliland said, "Anything we spent money wise, the volunteer fire department paid for everything out of pocket and a lot of volunteers came in and did work. One guy volunteered and cleared the property for us. The Arkansas Department of Forestry came in and leveled up a spot for us to put our pad. Fulton County brought us in gravel to start building and volunteers from the community came in here and put it all together." About three miles up the ridge from Spring River and north of Cherokee Village, the volunteer firefighters and community did a lot of work to make this all possible. Chief Gilliland said, "We had yard sales, bake sales, fish fries and went door to door to raise money. We even poured the concrete when it was freezing." There have not been many instances when the area needs a helicopter ambulance service. "I think we only used the air service a couple of times last year, but last year we were flooded in three times and couldn't even get an ambulance in and out. That is when we came up with the idea for the landing pad," Gilliland said. Air Evac's helicopter was only on the new 9 Mile Ridge landing pad long enough for volunteers and families to take a short close up look before getting an emergence call in another area. Fire department board, volunteer fire fighters, local and state officials were on hand to enjoy hot dogs and soft drinks in the new addition.