CLAYTON — A fire captain’s love of fire stations has led him on a quest across the country, searching for all of the fire stations that include the name “Clayton.”
“I’m just kinda in love with fire departments,” said Larry Such, a part-time shift captain at the Clayton Fire Department Station #2. Such has worked at the station for 20 years.
A couple years ago, Such started typing “Clayton” into the Internet search engine GoogleEarth. He tried to locate every “Clayton” in America.
“Some of them are real towns, some are nothing more than just a crossroads,” Such said.
He found 17 fire stations in America with the name Clayton, or in a town called Clayton. He sent out a letter to all of them, asking for information about, or pictures of, their fire departments. Only two replied, but that didn’t stop him from setting sail.
For Such, it’s about more than just locating these fire stations on a map. During the Christmas holiday, Such embarked to Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana to see three of the Clayton fire stations in person.
With his atlas of the country in hand, and his son Steven, by his side, he journeyed to the Deep South, scouting out three locations he’d marked with red dots on a big map.
“Their name being in common makes me curious how they compare to Clayton, North Carolina,” Such said.
During the trip, Such snapped photos of the three fire stations, captured footage of the towns, and met the locals.
Even though he tried to set up times to visit each station, his stop in Louisiana was more of an adventure than a planned trip. He wasn’t even sure if there was a fire station. On the Internet, he found that there was a “small, volunteer fire department,” but no listing of the address or of anyone to contact there. To him, it was worth finding out.
When he arrived in town, he stopped in to the country store in Clayton, LA. The mayor came up behind him. He had heard the captain talking about finding the fire station.
“I introduced myself and he was in a good mood so he took me to the fire station,” Such said. What he found there was much different than the type of equipment he’s used to here. “They’ve only got one truck, and the fire rating for everybody in the town is 10.” The fire insurance classifications range from 1 to 10, with a 1 being the best. By comparison, inside the town limits of Clayton, NC insurance ratings improved from a Class 5 rating to a Class 4 rating in November.
Also unlike the Johnston County Clayton, each of the towns he visited had only one station. Here in Clayton, there are two stations, with 11 full-time paid employees, and 57 part-time employees.
No two stations alike
“The most surprising thing is the variety of fire stations,” Such said.
As he wandered about each of the locales, he observed landmarks that each town shared, the post office, library, and local newspaper.
Part of the time, he managed to fit in family time with his daughter in Atlanta, where he and his son had a place to stay.
His next trip will be to the North, where several of his coworkers have contacts at Clayton fire stations there.
One of the stations he’s excited to visit is in Clayton, New York. Not only do they have fire engines, they also have a fire boat, he said. That would be a big difference from the engines he’s used to.
“My wife would rather go to Disney World or other more sought-after trips,” Such joked. But he’s not going to stop his journey until he’s been to all of the stations.
Such’s trip not only satisfies his own curiosity, it also benefits Clayton residents. There will be a quasi-exhibit with items, photos, and stories from the sights he’s traveled to at the fire station for locals to see the different communities that bear the same name.
Other red dots on his map that mark Clayton fire stations are in: California, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.