Penderlea Fire department

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A Short History of Penderlea

Penderlea is a rural farming community with a rich and interesting history. Speaking with the locals, you’ll hear that we live ‘on’ Penderlea, not ‘in’. This odd turn of phrase is a direct result of how the community was created. Formed as the Penderlea Homestead Project in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Penderlea was considered a homestead cooperative and the property and homesteads were built and leased to tenants as a way to encourage movement from large, overcrowded cities and provide relief during the Great Depression. The community itself was and is centered around a 23 acre school campus, which opened in 1938. Penderlea School, as it is known, has been in continuous operation for over 80 years and as of 2018, will boast a brand new, $22 million dollar facility. On another historical note, Holt Hosiery (built in 1939) which is directly across from the current fire station and adjacent to the original, was converted to manufacture nylon for the creation of parachutes immediately after Germany invaded Poland.

Penderlea Fire Department was established in 1957, a few short years after residents of Penderlea were given the opportunity to purchase the cooperative land from the government. Our first volunteers were newly independent farmers intent on building and protecting their new property. Our subsequent volunteers have maintained the same dedication to the task.

Penderlea Fire District contains approximately 2,100 housing units with a total population of about 4,400. Of those 2,100 housing units, over 30% are mobile homes with the remaining 70% single family dwellings. A small portion of those single family dwellings are ‘Penderlea homes’, at this time only 99 of the 300 remain. These homes feature old, timber construction and have been found to be volatile in the case of a fire since much of the lumber is ‘lightered’, or full of sap, which burns incredibly hot and fast. Mobile homes also present a significant challenge for our department because of their lightweight construction.

In district, there are two gas stations, an EMS station, K-8 school system, medical care facility, nursing home, museum, various small businesses, including an ammunition store, and a whopping twenty churches. The new Penderlea School will be a 73,000 sq ft multistory building and accommodate 600 students. Despite the new building, Penderlea School will remain on the National Register of Historic Places. Transversing our district is a major natural gas line that supports the power plant in neighboring New Hanover County and four major roadways; NC Hwy 11 and 117, serve as a major thoroughfare and NC Hwy 421 and Interstate 40 serve as both a major route to and from the Port of Wilmington and an evacuation route in case of coastal disaster.