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A photo in the Sept. 27, 1962, edition of The AJT features new fire suits worn by members of
the recently reorganized Newland Volunteer Fire Department. Photo courtesy NVFD

Originally published: 2014-02-12 17:44:46
Last modified: 2014-02-12 17:45:32

Fire Department Spotlight: Newland Volunteer Fire Department rose from difficult origins to thriving service

Jamie Shell / (

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a series of feature articles profiling Avery County’s fire departments. Local firefighters risk life and limb to preserve and protect our local communities, many doing so simply to serve a neighbor in need with no thought for financial gain or personal glory.

The Avery Journal-Times thanks our local departments and is honored to highlight those who selflessly serve Avery County residents.

When it comes to serving as a bedrock in a community, one might be hard-pressed to find an entity that has maintained as strong a connection with its community as Newland Volunteer Fire Department.

Research and fact-finding for NVFD does not take a lot of effort … if you know the right people. Fortunately, NVFD has a source that has been part of the department virtually from its beginning in retired NVFD Chief Junior Sluder.

Sluder, 80, served as Newland Chief for more than three decades, and is passionate about firefighting. He was instrumental in the founding of the Avery County Fire Association in the mid-1970s, and continues to serve on the association’s board to this day.

Although Sluder left the department for “retirement” on multiple occasions, his expertise was sorely missed, and his passion for the firefighting field continued to pull him back to the department he loved. Sluder made it crystal clear that firefighting is practically a desire that courses through a fireman’s veins.

“Most people who apply with the department put on the sheet that they want to serve the community. If someone wants to join just to drive a truck fast or use lights and sirens, that’s not why a person should want to be a firefighter,” Sluder explained from the NVFD offices on Old Toe River Road in an interview last week. “Serving the community is the most satisfying aspect of being part of this fire department, or any department for that matter. There’s nothing more satisfying than going to a house that’s on fire pretty good, going there and doing a good job and saving most of the homeowner’s stuff. You can’t make enough money to pay for that satisfaction of helping your neighbor.”

To read the complete story, please pick up a copy of your hometown newspaper, The Avery Journal-Times, available at almost 100 locations in Newland, Banner Elk, Crossnore, Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain, Tenn. To subscribe to The Avery Journal-Times, please call (828) 733-0401 or click to 

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