Dating back to the inception of the department, the Gastonia Fire Department has only had 1 line of duty death.
This page is a memorial to Lieutenant John Pinkney Stepp.
John P. Stepp was born on November 3, 1927, in Belmont, North Carolina to Joseph and Blake Stepp. He was the oldest of five children. At an early age, John moved with his family to Pageland, South Carolina. However, when he was 15, he returned to Gastonia by himself and started working and living in local funeral homes. John married Virginia Bell in February 1946 and the two had three children Jerry, Vicki, and Jeff.
Throughout his adult life, John was a servant to the citizens of Gastonia. He joined the Gastonia Fire Department on April 1, 1946. He worked his way through the ranks, becoming an engineer, then a lieutenant and also serving as a Captain while assigned to Station #1.
Early in his career, John discovered that he wanted to serve his community in other ways as well, as he became very active with the Gaston Life Saving Crew where he served for 32 years as a Captain.
February 13, 1980 was a day that would go down in history for the Gastonia Fire department. The firefighters at Station #1 were doing their morning duties when an alarm came in for a house fire. The station’s fire crews responded and extinguished the fire. John Stepp was obtaining information about the fire from the next-door neighbor when he suffered a heart attack. Fellow firefighters tried relentlessly to revive him but were unsuccessful.
John is buried in Gaston Memorial Cemetery, where his name is inscribed on the memorial that honors the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty.
The Gastonia Fire Department salutes Lieutenant John Pinkney Stepp, and remembers the tremendous sacrifice he paid for the citizens of Gastonia.


Gastonia, N.C., just minutes west of Charlotte, is one of the area’s best places to live and work with an ideal combination of location, size and livability. Gastonia is the largest of Gaston County’s 13 municipalities and one of the largest cities in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Selected as an All-America City three times, Gastonia’s desirable quality of life is the result of its beautiful natural surroundings, friendly neighborhoods, responsive government and vibrant business environment.


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Gastonia, NC 28052