Retired Wrightsville Beach Fire Department Captain
PHOTO BY ALLISON POTTER
35 YEARS OF STERLING
A sense of community spirit prompted Sterling Powell
to begin volunteering with the Wrightsville Beach Fire
Department in 1982 when he was 21 years old. He
grew up in the town, and wanted to help after the Doak
Apartments fire that claimed the life of Lt. Robert Wynn
and injured one of Powell’s friends, Jon Dennison, in 1981.
Powell expected it to last a few years. Instead, he stayed
on for three and one-half decades, retiring in late May.
Thirty-five years is the longest tenure of any member of the
“As firemen have come and gone through this depart-ment,
this has remained my home,” says Powell, who
advanced to the rank of captain.
The town began to transition from a volunteer to a
paid force in the late ’80s, and Powell took one of the full-time
positions in 1987. He has served as the department’s
volunteer coordinator, as well as the county’s Emergency
Operations Center liaison.
Powell intends to find new work, but in the meantime
he says he will continue to enjoy his time at the Carolina
Yacht Club, where he serves as the commodore.
“I’m not leaving town. I’m Wrightsville Beach,” he says.
— Annie Stevens
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