NCEM Area Coordinator Honored with Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year Awards after a Lifetime of Dedicated Service

Author: Clyde Roper and Laura Nozedar

If you ask Eric Wiseman to tell you about himself and his work, he will downplay his accomplishments, talking less about himself and more about the work. He will stress the importance of public service and how rewarding he finds his work as an area coordinator for NC Emergency Management to be. He won’t tell you he was recently named Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year for both North Carolina and the Southeast region; not unless you bring it up.

That’s not too surprising when you consider many who know him describe Wiseman as a humble man who has dedicated his life and career to helping others.

“We are proud of Eric and all his accomplishments. He is a highly respected advisor and mentor who is always willing to help his fellow man. A true professional who is very humble and just wants to move quietly through life,” said Eric’s supervisor, Mike Cook, western branch manager for NCEM.

In fact, after talking with Wiseman for a little while it seems that giving back to his community was always in his blood. Eric says he is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who both served in the fire service.

Before joining NCEM, Wiseman served as a paramedic for 12 years in the private sector and local government. He then worked with Mitchell County Emergency Management for 10 years. In 2010, Wiseman began working with NCEM as a planner and currently serves as the Area 13 Coordinator for the Western Branch.

Last year, when Hurricane Matthew brought torrential rain and devastating flooding to our state, Lumberton’s Water Treatment Plant was flooded out and thousands left without water in the Robeson County community. Wiseman was the lead for the NCEM team that quickly arrived at the plant with the mission of restoring an emergency water supply as soon as possible.

“We were completely under water (in the plant) and 23,000 people were without water in the city,” said then-deputy director of the Lumberton Public Works, Jim Walters (now retired).

The situation in the flooded plant was grim. It looked like it could take a month to repair the plant and resume delivery of potable water to 23,000 customers. But thanks to Wiseman and team’s fast action and expedited arrangements with private sector partners, water was soon flowing back into homes and businesses.

“Within 24 hours of the NCEM team showing up, we had water treatment units rolling in and pumps pumping water out (of the plant) and we had begun to establish water service to our citizens. That all happened within 24 hours of these people showing up. They were a real lifesaver for Lumberton,” Walters added.

Although Eric had led the charge, it was a group effort involving NCEM, FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, city officials and private sector partners which saw four mobile units deployed to provide fresh water to Lumberton while the water plant was still literally under water.

“When we got there, it was a huge issue, people could not go about their daily lives. People hadn’t had water in several days, which shut down businesses. They had nothing but bottled water and five gallon buckets of water. It affected the economy and the stability of life,” Wiseman said. His hard work paid off when the water began to flow again.

Wiseman stressed the teamwork required to make it all happen, and described their around-the-clock efforts by saying, “everybody was working towards a common goal.”

Wiseman is also active with Emergency Management’s Search and Rescue Program. One of the five core mission areas of the SAR program is mountain rescue. (The others are urban, swift water, helicopter and wilderness.) Wiseman helped start the Mountain Rescue Program, working with a local EM coordinator and another area coordinator to get it off the ground. Wiseman hosts one of the five state-sponsored mountain rescue teams at his fire department in Mitchell County. Each year he helps coordinate and teach mountain rescue classes for local first responders all across western North Carolina.

However, his leadership and service to the public extend far beyond the valuable work he performs for Emergency Management. Since 1988, Wiseman has served the community of Spruce Pine, NC as a Parkway Fire and Rescue volunteer firefighter— for the past decade leading the department as its chief. He also served as both First and Second Vice President of the Western North Carolina Association of Firefighters.

His years of hard work and continued dedication to public service didn’t go unnoticed.

In 2016, Wiseman was awarded the Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year award by the Western NC Association of Firefighters for his integrity and dedication to the fire service.

Earlier this year he was honored with the Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year award by the North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs. This prestigious honor is awarded each year to a chief fire executive who embodies public service through their actions in leadership and in their profession.

The recognition didn’t stop there.

In June of this year, Wiseman was also presented with the Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year award by the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs. Not only does this award reflect on the impact he’s made within the Southeast, it proves he’s an example to fire chief executives throughout the country.

“We are fortunate at Emergency Management to have so many great people on our team who do so much for our state, both on and off the clock. Eric is a prime example of that,” said Mike Sprayberry, director of Emergency Management. “We’re lucky to have someone so dedicated to public service working with us and the recognition he’s received is well deserved.”



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