FIRESIDE CHATS: Choplin enjoyed time here as forest ranger

  • Charles Choplin was the N.C. Forest Ranger for Cherokee County for the last 10 years.
    Charles Choplin was the N.C. Forest Ranger for Cherokee County for the last 10 years.

    Peachtree – Charles Choplin is leaving Cherokee County after a decade as its N.C. Forest Service ranger, but he will leave a small piece of his heart here before he goes.
    “I love it here,” he said. “It did not take long to find out what a close-knit community we have here. I’m going to miss seeing people at Walmart or wherever who know who you are, and what you do, and are happy to see you.”
    Choplin will be returning to the eastern part of the state to serve as the ranger in Wayne County. That’s not far from his hometown of Louisburg in Franklin County, where much of his family still lives.
    Choplin went back to school after working all over the country as an electrician to get his degree in forestry from Wayne Community College. After a lot of years on the road, he met his wife and wanted to settle down. He started studying forestry before “seeing dollar signs as a young man,” then decided to give it another go.
    “I’ve always been an outdoor person. My family and I were farmers growing up,” he said. “I’ve always been outside hunting and fishing, raising cattle. It seemed like it was a good profession to be in.”
    His first assignment as a forest ranger began in Cherokee County 10 years ago.
    “For the good Lord to put me here in Cherokee County, there couldn’t have been any better place,” he said. “This is one of the best places in the world. I love the people, the county administration has been excellent to work with and the volunteer fire departments here are some of the best in the state, by far.”
    Many people confuse the roles of the U.S. Forest Service and N.C. Forest Service, for which Choplin serves. His job with the state involves dealing with private landowners, helping them manage their timber, as well as assisting local firefighters with blazes that come along. The U.S. Forest Service primarily deals with federal lands and infrastructure concerns.
    Choplin said he loves his job, even if sometimes it is “one hour outside for every two hours of paperwork.” One of the biggest challenges of his time here was the wildfire outbreak in 2016.
    “A lot of people here don’t realize how many fires Cherokee County has in a year, from small ones to big ones,” he said. “On a high year, we have seen around 100 fires a year. In some wet years, we may not see 25 fires a year.”
    Choplin said North Carolina is No. 1 in the nation in urban interface, which in layman’s terms means that there are a lot of houses in the woods that can be affected by wildfire. Many of those offer the additional challenge of being difficult to reach by fire prevention vehicles.
    Choplin said he was proud of being part of a committee that helped several communities become “fire-wise communities,” which is a national certification. When he first moved to Cherokee County, fire officials in various communities were extremely kind and welcoming to him.
    “This was especially true of (former fire marshal) W.C. King, who was a tremendous asset to me,” Choplin said. “Working with Chad Cook and everybody else has just shown what nice people are here, and what an awesome community this is.”
    That makes it a bittersweet move for Choplin, but one that makes him whole with his family.
    “A lot of people leave their job because they are unhappy with the pay or don’t like their boss, but that is the furthest from the truth for me,” he said. “The main reason is that my parents are not getting younger, and we have grown kids out there thinking about grandchildren. It’s just time to be with family and move on back closer to home.
    “Not to mention, I love saltwater fishing, and to be closer to the coast to do one of the things I love most in life is a blessing.”