Histories of Fort Fisher Fire Departments

Last updated Dec 14, 2014


Contents

Fort Fisher

Site of a Civil War-era Confederate fort along the Atlantic Coast.

Fort Fisher Army Air Field

1940, December - Construction starts on Camp Davis several miles to the north. Serves an Army anti-aircraft training facility. Fort Fisher serves as their main target range. The installation is named Fort Fisher Army Air Field.

The site was developed as a self-sustaining post, with construction of "48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building." The site also featured a "10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach." By 1944, the base had grown to several hundred acres. Added were a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic and an 80-seat cafeteria. [ALKA]

One of the airfield's "more prominent features" was a 2,500-foot unpaved runway. Same remains recognizable as a geographic feature to the northeast and southwest of the Fort Fisher visitor's center. [ALKA]

Fire department information TBD.

1944 - Air field closes.

Fort Fisher Air Station

Early

1955 - Fort Fisher Air Station opens, developed as an air defense radar installation on property to the north of the airfield. The base was assigned to (administrated by) Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

Later

By 1983, the fire station is a one-story, two-bay metal building on Riverside Drive (present name), located across from the post bowling alley. It housed the fire truck and the ambulance.

The department operated a lime-yellow Class 530B pumper, which was likely built by Ward LaFrance on a pre-1966 military M-44 6x6 2.5 ton chassis with single instead of dual rear wheels. The six-cylinder gasoline engine was built by either Reo or Continental. Like other 530B models, it was equipped with a 500 GPM pump, 400 gallons of water, and 40 gallons of foam. The truck could only pump when stationary, and was not equipped with pump-and-roll capability. They were equipped with dual 150-foot one-inch booster lines, 800 feet of 1.5 inch hose, and 1,200 feet of 2.5 inch supply hose. [TH]

After the truck's pump packing failed in the mid- to late-1980s, a P-8D Ford C-800/Pierce (81L606) was loaned from Myrtle Beach AFB. The apparatus served until 1988 and possibly through the base's closure.

At this time the fire department had a single assigned person by skill code. The Fire Chief managed all aspects of fire protection on the site. The remaining firefighters were volunteers (called augmentees) and numbered around fifteen people. They trained once a month with an instructor from Cape Fear Technical Institute. The instructor at the time was one of Wilmington's Battalion Chiefs.

In the event of a fire, the base siren was sounded, members ran to the fire station, got their gear and responded. The fire station contained the two vehicles and lockers for each team member to store their gear. The Fire Chief had an office at the other end of the base in Civil Engineering. They had a desk in the officer shared with two other CE supervisors.

The department also had hose cabinets around the base that could be operated with hydrant pressure like an industrial site. In addition to protecting the dozen buildings and 20+ base housings, the FD had an inter-agency agreement to protect 2,000+ acres of pine barrens across the river, that belonged to Sunny Point Marine Ocean Terminal. The FD also responded on mutual aid calls with Kure Beach and Federal Point fire departments.

Call volume in the 1980s was minimal, as few as one or two per year (including mutual aid).

The ambulance was staffed by two Independent Duty Medics, who operated the small health clinic on the base. In 1985, the ambulance was an older "lowboy" station wagon. By the late 1980s, they had received a modular ambulance.

1988, June 30 - Fort Fisher Air Station closes and the 701st Radar Squadron is deactivated. It's one of thirty-seven military installations closed due to federal budget cuts and improvements in technology. At the time of closure, some 80 airmen are stationed there. The FAA takes command of the station's radar equipment. (They've demolished one of the two radar towers. The other will be renovated to become more automated, and serve ATC and defense needs.) Control of the base houses and recreation is retained by the USAF. The clinic and headquarters building are administered by the NCNG. The exchange, commissary, and dining hall close. (The commissary is turned into a country store and the Non-Commissioned Officers Club becomes a riverfront cafe.)

1988, June 30 or after - Fire department is deactivated. Federal Point Fire Department became the first-due fire department for the site.

Fort Fisher Recreation Station

1988, July 1 - Fort Fisher Recreation Station opens. Some 200 acres of the air station are converted to the recreation area. Twenty-seven guest houses used by USAF families become guest houses. The camping grounds are planned for expansion. The pool, athletic fields, and waterfront land are included as part of the recreational area. Eleven full-time (civilian) positions are planned to be created. The site is designed to be self-supporting, with all salaries and expenses paid by monies generated at the base. All branches of the military have access to the area, which is administered by Myrtle Beach AFB. (In 1993, upon closure of same, the facility is transferred to Seymour Johnson AFB.)

1988, July 1 (after) - North Carolina National Guard establishes a leadership training facility at the site, co-located with the USAF recreation area. They get reduced rental rates on housing (and apparently pay rent for all buildings used). By June 1989, they're planning to use about a dozen of the buildings as a conference and training center.

1991 (May or abouts) - NCANG Asst. Fire Chief Art Delaney assigned to site, to build a fire training facility on the old ground air transmit and receiving (GATR) site. Same was located at the southern end of the beach and marked by tall poles with wire strung between them. (However, the site was determined to be within the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point blast zone, and no fires could be started on the site. That disqualified the location.)

1991, fall - NCANG begins holding USAF fire officer and fire inspector classes at Fort Fisher Recreation Station. Like several across the country, the facility was being developed to help ease the strain on Goodfellow AFB, while the USAF finished their new Fire-Rescue Training Division. The program also helped provide regional facilities for recurrent fire-rescue training for military personnel, and saved units from having to build and maintain their own.

1991, summer-fall - After a small fire in the dormitory, the Director asked Delaney to re-establish the fire department. The fire station building was still standing, and a Mack CF pumper from Pennsylvania was housed there. (Apparatus information TBD.) Chief Delaney asked for volunteers and several enrolled. They started training in October 1991. Emergency calls were announced with a siren.

1991, December or 1992, January - P-10 Chevy rescue and P-4 Oshkosh crash truck are assigned to the site. They were obtained for the training facility, but were also used on base, since the P-4 could be used for structural suppression.

1993, early - Fire training program was eliminated at Fort Fisher and moved to Fayetteville (at the airport). No props were ever constructed due to budget cuts and transfers. The P-10 and P-4 were transferred to the NCANG base in Charlotte. The Mack was returned to storage. The fire training program was split between Charlotte (for military fire training, from NCANG) and Fayetteville (for civilian fire training, presently managed by "the college" and city fire department).

1993 - Fire department deactivated. Fire protection duties were turned back over to Federal Point FD, which also received Fort Fisher's Mack pumper.

Today

The fire station building is still standing.

Images

Fort Fisher in 1980s, photo from 701s Radar Squad (RADS) Fort Fisher AFS, NC - The '80s Facebook group

Class 530B at New Boston Air Force Station, NH. This truck was very similar to the Fort Fisher Class 530B. Ted Heinbuch photo.

P-8D assigned to Myrtle Beach AFB, later loaded to Fort Fisher. Wayne Greer (?) photo.

Fire station building today.

Fire station building today, Google Maps photo.

Fire department in 1980s. Photo from 701s Radar Squad (RADS) Fort Fisher AFS, NC - The '80s Facebook group.

Firefighters and ambulance in 1980s. Photo from 701s Radar Squad (RADS) Fort Fisher AFS, NC - The '80s Facebook group.

Training in the 1980s. Photo from 701s Radar Squad (RADS) Fort Fisher AFS, NC - The '80s Facebook group.

Training in the 1980s. Photo from 701s Radar Squad (RADS) Fort Fisher AFS, NC - The '80s Facebook group.

Training in the 1980s. Photo from 701s Radar Squad (RADS) Fort Fisher AFS, NC - The '80s Facebook group.

Sources


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