Cary Fire Department

History



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pre-history

Cary Lumber Company burns (1902)no26no08

Cary's largest building burns. A grist mill and office building owned by F. R. Gray and Brother contains the Gray Brothers grist mill, two flour mills and one corn mill, a cotton gin, private offices, the post office, two store rooms, a coffin establishment, three lodge halls, and the Episcopal chapel.  The Raleigh Fire Department is summoned and Chief Frank Simpson responds by carrying the steamer and hose on a special train (February 25, 1908) no26no08

1920

Western Wake Highway completed, linking Cary and Raleigh (August 20, 1920)

1921

Town makes arrangements with Raleigh for "a fire truck and crew of firemen to answer any alarms for fire within the Town of Cary" (June 8, 1921) cb

1922

First fire inspector appointed, Lloyd Matthews, for Town to comply with State laws (March 14, 1922) cb

First fire company organized after Town Alderman appoint L. A. Cathey to organize same.  Town Board also passes resolution to purchase fire engine (June 6, 1922) cb

Bid accepted for purchase of first fire truck from American LaFrance Fire Engine Company cb (October 23, 1922)

1923

Fire fire engine delivered, American LaFrance chemical engine on Ford Model-T chassis, equipped with two 35-gallon chemical tanks (February 7, 1923) cb

First Fire Chief appointed, H. H. Waddell, with D. C. Page serving as Assistant Chief(May 1, 1923) cb

First fire engine is housed in metal garage purchased from C. D. Pruden Corporation of Baltimore, Maryland (Spring 1923) cb

1925

First water lines and fire hydrants placed in service cfd

1926

Second fire engine purchased for $1,100 from Nash Motor Company (September 10, 1926) cb

Fire department has 12 volunteers with Raleigh firefighter Lee Matthews acting as part-time training officer

1927

West Side Inn in Cary burns.  The Raleigh Fire Department is contacted and Engine Company 4 responds, unleashing a "speed burst" with a 12-minute run. Firefighters arrive in time to save the lower half of the two-story wooden structure. The town's firefighting equipment is already in use. Select furniture is saved and the kitchen is not damaged. The entire upper story is destroyed, however, with only the frame work remaining. Cary is located 10.17 miles from old Station 4 at 505 Jefferson Street in Raleigh. The fire department's 12-minute run averages 60 mph.  (May 5, 1927) no06may27, rt05may27

Six men named town firefighters:

  • W. L. Jones
  • L. E. Sturdivant
  • T. F. Wilkerson Jr.
  • Royce Ellington
  • Marvin Breeze
  • Robert Atkins.

They are not paid, but excused from paying "pole tax" (July 21, 1927) cb

Six additional men appointed to Fire Department:

  • Arthur Womble
  • S. T. Smith
  • Jack Murdock
  • H. R. Adams
  • E. J. Byrum
  • Pat Gray, Jr. (November 17, 1927) cb
1932

1931 Chevrolet pumper purchased from Peter Pirsch & Sons, 300 GPM with 200 gallon booster tank [ Note: Pump and water specs may refer to 1953 rehab ](January 11, 1932) cb

Town Council instructs L. R. Hunter to sell chemical tanks from old pumper and purchase siren to alert firefighters (January 11, 1932) cb

1934

Fire department accredited by North Carolina Fireman's Association

1935

Fire station is ordered moved to new location, in back of the Masonic Lodge at corner Chatham and Academy streets.  Lodge building later becomes Ashworth's Drugstore in 1977(August 24, 1935) cb

Town Board authorizes Mr. Phillips to organize a Fire Department.  Firefighters are to be exempt from paying pole tax for their services (August 24, 1935) cb

1936

Town Council calls special meeting to comply with August 24, 1935 resolution, with following individuals forming new fire department: 

  • M. R. Conner, Chief
  • L. E. Midgette Assistant Chief
  • Ivan Ruth
  • Alf. Pleasants
  • Clyde B. Hawkins
  • C. R. Craddock
  • W. R. Matthews
  • Walter Pendegraph
  • Alvin Slcan
  • Clarence Oakley
  • Norwood Northcutt
  • C. R. Penny(February 18, 1936) cb

Town Board grants permission for Chief Conner to attend North Carolina Fire School in Wilmington on April 21, 22, and 23.  He is instructed by the Board to "economize on all expenses" (March 1936)cb

Town Council gives permission for fire department to join North Carolina Fireman's Association and purchases 20 badges for firefighters(May 7, 1936) cb

Town agrees to pay for cleaning of firefighter's clothing when soiled in line of duty(May 7, 1936) cb

Town Board waives Captain Lee Matthew's dog tax in exchange for services coaching fire department (May 7, 1936) cb

Town Board authorizes Assistant Chief Midgette to purchase fire hose (December 8, 1936) cb

1937

Law passed fining $25 anyone found guilty of turning in a false alarm (January 15, 1937) cb

Town Board authorizes expenses for one man to attend fire school in Durham (April 12, 1917) cb

1952

Fire station on Academy Street demolished after lot is sold to J. G. Hobby, to raise funds for new fire station planned at corner of Cedar and N. Academy streets. (Fall 1952)


Fire engine fails at house fire.  Burning structure is reported just beyond Town limits.  1931 Chevrolet pumper "is pulled from the tin-roof shed" and arrives "in no time flat" writes The State Magazine.  Firefighters lay a line into the well and switch on the fan belt-driven pump.  Water squirts all of ten feet and the firefighters watch helplessly as the dwelling burns down.  Firefighters subsequently meet with the Town Board and leave with a proposition:  if the volunteers raise $3,000 for a down payment on a new fire engine, the Town will handle the remaining balance.  Intense fundraising follows and soon an order is placed with the Seagrave Fire Engine Company in Columbus, Ohio. ts

Fire Chief is James L. Murdock.  H. B. Jordan is Assistant Chief

1953

First Annual Fireman's Day held. Day-long celebration is expected to attract more than 5,000 people.  Mile-long parade starts at 3:00 p.m. along Highway 1, beginning at R. O. Heater's home on Harrison Street and concluding at Cary High School. The fire siren signals the start of the parade with a single blast.  From 4:30 to 5 p.m., a demonstration of the new fire truck is conducted on the school athletic field.  A barbeque supper is held at the school cafeteria, sponsored by the Junior Order of the United Mechanics, Wake County 125" and a square dance is held from 8:30 to midnight "on the parking apron of the Piggly Wiggly and Ken Ben stores" reports a newspaper article. A "$10 cash prize" is given by the fire department for the "best picture taken at the parade." Nearly $500 of prizes are donated by local merchants "to those holding lucky tickets" and are displayed "in the Adams Building between the Cary Bank and Post Office."  Each store features a "special item for sale" and everyone is eligible for a prize, "even though he has not bought anything in a particular store." For next 23 (?) years, first Saturday in May is celebrated as Fireman's Day (May 2, 1953) no

New Seagrave pumper displayed at Fireman's Day.  Same has 202 horsepower, 12-cylinder Seagrave pumper, 750 GPM with 500 gallon water tank. Cost $15,000. Tom Stewart, representing the Seagrave Company of South Carolina, presents the truck to Mayor Waldo H. Rood (May 2, 1953)

Fire department has 21 volunteers as of May 5, 1953

Fire Chief is James L. Murdock.  Paul Matthews is Assistant Chief (May 5, 1953)

Fire station at 100 W. Chatham street completed. Brick veneer and cinder block building measures 30 by 20 feet, has one apparatus bay, and is adjacent to Town Hall. Building costs about $4,000 (Summer 1953) 


Second station built on 100 block of Cedar Street.  Same occupies a 20 x 65 foot tin shed located on a Town-owned lot, behind the present location of Rogers Motel.  Firefighters furnish the labor and obtain the materials for building.  Timber for framing is cut from another Town-owned lot.  [ Alternate year for construction: 1954 ] cfd

Movie theater in downtown Apex burns. Cary fire department sends newly delivered 1953 Seagrave pumper. no

1954

Second Annual Fireman's Day held (May 1954)

Tractor-drawn tanker truck displayed at Fireman's day, ex-gasoline trailer and ex-military tractor carrying 4,500 gallons and a 350 GPM portable pump, assembled from donated parts and after more than 4,000 man-hours of firefighter labor during the past four months.  The idea for the tractor-drawn apparatus came from the Wake County Board of Commissioners, which set up funds to purchase tank trailers for rural fire departments that obtain tractors to pull them.  Legal problems prevented the funds from being used, but the Cary Fire Department went ahead anyway.  The tractor was purchased at Camp Lejeune as military surplus, a 180-horsepower International truck tractor with 10 forward speeds and two reverse speeds.  The 4,000 tank is donated by Bryan-Cooper Oil Company of Raleigh and mounted on a wheeled chassis by firefighters, who also install new tires, brakes, and lights.  Mounted at the back of the tank is a 350 GPM portable pump that can be used to power water streams or fill the tank.  The inside of the tank is given a special coating, so drinking water can be transported.  The tractor has a 1,500-watt AC generator mounted, ten new tires and tubes, and a brilliant red paint job.  The engine, brakes, and other parts are overhauled.  The bell from Cary's first fire truck, a Model-T in 1924, is re-plated and placed on the truck.  And the entire project is completed by the 20 fire department members without funds from the Town treasury.  Instead, they're assisted by a host of individuals donating equipment and other things. (May 28, 1954)

Refurbished 1931 Chevrolet / Pirsch pumper displayed at Fireman's day.  With firefighter efforts started in Spring 1953, apparatus has  new engine, brakes, tires, paint job, 350 GPM front-mounted pump, and 250-gallon booster tank (May 1954)

Cary Rural Fire Department, Inc. incorporated (November 1, 1954) sos


Home on East Chatham Street burns.  Residence of N. G. Gullie is damaged but not destroyed rt

Firefighters help Morrisville organize a fire department rt

Fire department answers 27 calls during year, including six in Wake County and two for mutual to Morrisville and Apex.   They reach Morrisville eight minutes after the call is received rt

1955

Third Annual Fireman's day held.  Parade starts at 3:00 p.m.  New "emergency service truck for Civilian Defense" is presented at 5:00 p.m. in front of the "American Legion hut," with the presentation made by Fire Chief J. C. Griffis to Cary Mayor W. H. Rood "accepting the equipment on behalf of the town" reports the The Raleigh Times.  Activities at 9:00 p.m. include "and card and coin game in one quarter of the town" and, in honor of Mother's Day, all mothers are "taken for rides on the fire truck."  (Children get their turns from 8 - 9:30 p.m.) (May 1955)

Civil Defense rescue truck displayed at Fireman's Day. Built from ex-military, mobile machine shop, carries $8,000 worth of equipment including 5,000-watt portable generator, 2,500-watt generator, two-way radio, $600 resuscitator, block and tackle, ropes, a portable oxygen acetylene cutting torch, in all "196 different pieces of equipment, all new." Same is also the only Civil Defense rescue truck operated by a volunteer fire department in North Carolina (May 1955)


Buick Roadmaster purchased for Fire Chief.  Vehicle is purchased used.

Addition built on Station #2 to house rescue truck rt

Fire Chief is J. C. Griffis

1956

Fire Chief is Bob Elder and the Assistant Chief is Bob Heater (April 21, 1956)

Fourth Annual Fireman's Day is held.  Event attracts 5,000 people.  Festivities begin at 3 p.m.  Fire engines parade from Apex, Garner, Morrisville, Raleigh, and Cary.  "Musical airs" are furnished by the "Drum and Bugle Corps from State College" and senior and junior bands from Cary High School.  Parade also features "Girl Scouts, Wake County fire chiefs' cars, lots of floats and cars carrying pretty girls" reports the May 7 edition of The Raleigh Times.  Activities also include "Quizno" from 6 until 11 p.m., a "legal cousin of outlawed Bingo."  Fireman's Day concludes with a street dance and the music of "the Mills Brothers Hillbilly Band" (May 7, 1956)

New tanker truck displayed at Fireman's day, 2,500 gallon ex-military vehicle with 100 GPM pump.  Rebuilding was surprised by Jackie Hunter (May 7, 1956)

Fire department announces plans to build $75,000 fire station on 100 x 120 foot site on southeast corner of Cedar and N. Academy St. Fund-raising begins on Fireman's Day.  Cornerstone bricks are auctioned off for a total of $2,035.00. (May 7, 1956)

Fire department has 25 members and two fire stations of September 22, 1956Fire Chief is Bob Heater

Boyd Wilson Morris becomes first paid firefighter (October 1, 1956)

1957

Fifth Annual Fireman's Day held.  Celebration starts at 2:30 p.m. with a parade including "the Air Force ROTC marching airmen, the army ROTC drum and bugle corps and the Army ROTC Pershing Rifles crack drill team, all from State College" reports the May 3 edition of The Raleigh Times.  From 3:30 to 5 p.m., "the fire department and the Civil Defense rescue team" display equipment and "provide entertainment for children and adults on the high school football field."  Starting at 5:30 p.m. is a fish-fry and at 6:30 p.m., a "gasoline-powered kiddie automobile will be given away." Games and dancing are also featured, with activities ending at 11:30 p.m. (May 1957)rt

Fire department has one full-time and 24 volunteer firefighters as of December 9, 1957. Fire Chief is W. E. Henderson.  Assistant Chief is J. P. Matthews cfd

As of December 9, 1957, fire department equipment consists of:  wcfa

#1 Chevrolet, 300 GPM, 200 gallon booster tank, 1000 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 500 feet of 1 1/2" hose, four Indian tanks
#2 Seagrave, 750 GPM, 500 gallon booster tank, 1000 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 500 feet of 1 1/2" hose
#3 International tandem tractor - 350 GPM portable pump, 4,700 gallon tank, 500 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 250 feet of 1 1/2" hose, one Indian tank
#4 Rescue truck - 2500 watt generator, 5 kilowatt generator, complete set Civil Defense tools and equipment
#5 International truck, 100 GPM power take-off pump, 2,500 gallon tanker, 200 feet of 2 1/2" hose, two Indian tanks
Chief Car two Indian pumps

Two-way radio system installed. Base station installed in Station #1 with "stand-by receivers" at Fire Chief's house, Town Clerk's office, and ready room at Station #2. Radio equipment also installed in all fire apparatus, the rescue truck, and the Chief's car. The frequency assigned by the FCC is 46.06 with a maximum output of 500 watts.

1958

Sixth Annual Fireman's Day held.  Firefighters continuing fundraising for new fire station, auctioning ten "green bricks" with the highest bidder to have their name engraved in one of the first stones in the new building, planned since 1956 and expected to be completed in 1961. (May 3, 1958) rt


Fire department increases to 28 members

Fire Chief is J. Paul Matthews wcfa

1959

Seventh Annual Fireman's day held.  Celebration begins at 3:30 p.m. with a parade.  Other events include a fish fry, door prizes, and a square dance "in the Winn-Dixie parking lot on Chatham Street" reports the April 29 edition of The Raleigh Times.  (May 3, 1959)

Fire Chief is Paul Mathews.  Assistant Chief is Earl Williams (May 1959)


Construction started on Station #1.  Plans have been drawn for $75,000 building with basement and two stories.  Funds have been solicited during five years of fundraising.  Firefighters perform most of the work after hours.  Completion is due in 1961 no

1960

Eighth Annual Fireman's Day held on May 7, 1960.  Schedule includes "a parade at 3:30 p.m., supper at the high school cafeteria from 5 until 8 p.m., games from 6:30 until 8 p.m., and a street dance from 8 until midnight."  Fried fish is served in the cafeteria, prepared by firefighters, their wives, and members of the Fire Auxiliary Association. Drawings are held for "various prize merchandise" and an open house is held "at the emergency shelter" set up at the Cary Methodist Church from noon until 4:30 p.m. (May 7, 1960)na, rt

Fire Chief is J. C. Griffis.  R. B. Heater is Assistant Chief (May 7, 1960)cfd

One firefighter killed and one injured when tractor-drawn tanker overturns en route to call near Meredith College. Vehicle overturns when turning from "US 1 onto a side road running between Meredith College property and the State College animal husbandry farm" reports the June 16 edition of The Raleigh Times. Both firefighters are thrown from cab. Vernon Lee Thompson, 28, dies, pinned under cab, after gasoline leaking from fuel tank under seat is apparently ignited by electrical short.  Willis Edward (Billy) Henderson, 32, is injured and admitted to Rex Hospital for "cuts, bruises, and shocks" reports the June 17 edition of The News and Observer. Raleigh firefighters and rescue workers sp.  end nearly two hours recovering Thompson's body from the burning vehicle.  The first wrecker sent to the scene is unable to raise the truck and a larger is called and able to lift the cab enough for the body to be removed.  Both Thompson and Henderson are state employees working at Camp Polk prison farm and were en route to extinguish a trash fire near the prison dump, a rekindling of a fire from the night before.  Henderson is quoted as saying "he was driving about 15 miles an hour" when he turned onto the side road.  Pavement markings are left "for about 120 feet," caused not by "skid marks but pressure marks caused by the heavy truck's being slowed." The cab of the tractor-drawn tanker is destroyed and fire officials say they don't intend to replace truck (June 16, 1960)

Tractor-drawn tanker not replaced after accident.  Vehicle is insured but, say fire department officials, it's an old truck (June 16, 1960)

Mayor Waldo Rood suggests town establish its own fire department, "a volunteer group to work under the direction of a paid chief who would also be the new police chief" reports The Raleigh Times and which "would be separate from the present Cary volunteer department which serves not only the town but the surrounding rural area."  Firefighters "could choose whether to come with the town or remain where they are." The Town Board subsequently adopts a resolution in support of the Mayor. Townspeople and firefighters disagree with the proposal and "a committee is appointed to work out the differences." (June 1960)

Town Board approves purchase of "accidental death and disability income insurance" for fire department members, reports The Raleigh Times.  Question of insurance arose at town meeting one week ago, with eleven firefighters threatening to resign unless the issue was discussed immediately.  After the volunteers "carried out their threat," the Town Board immediately "sent a negotiator to the fire station and a compromise was worked out whereby the resignations were withdrawn on condition the board purchase the insurance at a special meeting to be held soon after."(July 13, 1960) rt

Fire Chief is J. C. Griffis. Willie Crumpler is Assistant Chief (July 22, 1960)rt

Fire department split into two entities, newly created Cary Fire Department serving town, and Cary Rural Fire Department serving unincorporated areas.  J. L. (Pete) Murdoch is appointed Fire Chief of both departments. Paul Matthews is appointed Assistant Chief of the town department and Willie Crumpler is appointed Assistant Chief of the rural department.  The 24 members of the fire department are split equally between Town and Rural departments, with more men needed "to build up both departments" reports the September 10 edition of The Raleigh Times.  Applications are available at the Town Hall and applicants must be between 19 and 40 years of age, in good health, and willing to follow all fire department rules and regulations.  Two "paid firemen" are to be hired, so "at least one well-trained fireman is on duty in town at all times." Yet worked out is the "division of property" as "some of the equipment that has been used by the previous department is owned jointly by the town and rural departments."  Both departments are expected to "fall short of the necessary equipment when the property is divided." (September 15, 1960) rt


Construction on Station #1 abandoned during dispute among volunteer firefighters and town officials.  Basement has been dug and foundations have been laid.  Approximately $15,000 has been spent on the uncompleted structure. no 

1961

Ninth Annual Fireman's Day held.  Event includes a parade, "bands, pretty girls, and lots of fire units" reports a newspaper article.  Three school bands from Cary appear, along with others from "Knightdale, Millbrook, Erwin" and "Corinth-Holders."  Fire units come from "New Hope, Apex, Garner, Swift Creek, Fairgrounds Rural and the Raleigh departments.  And, of course, Cary's town and rural departments."  "Perched atop a convertible," Molly Jo Waters-- Miss Cary-- is "resplendent in a white dress" and "other pretty girls rode the FHA float."  (May, 1961)

Yrac Volunteer Fire Department organized by former Cary Fire Department volunteers. First Fire Chief is J. P. (Jackie) Hunter Jr.  First station is Cary Station #2 on Cedar Street (?) (December 1, 1961)

1962

Tenth Annual Fireman's Day held.  Yrac Fire Department is "wholly responsible for putting on Fireman's Day this year" reports The Raleigh Times, though "municipal fire department members" participate individually and the town enters "its units in the parade."  Proceeds, however, "go to the new department."  Parade starts at 3:00 p.m.  Street dance is held from 8 to 12 p.m. "at the Winn-Dixie parking lot."  Prizes given away include "a Hereford steer, boys and girls bicycles and other items donated by local merchants." A grandstand "for special guests" is set up "in front of the Baptist Church" and Buck Sloan serves as announcer (May 1962) rt

1963

Eleventh Annual Fireman's Day held.  Celebration begins at 3:00 p.m. with a parade which includes "fire equipment from a half-dozen or so Wake County departments and an antique fire truck from the Chapel Hill fire organization" reports the May 3 edition of The Raleigh Times.  Miss Cary rides in the parade, as does Miss Yrac, whose identify is "kept secret until she appears."  Door prizes include "a fat steer and a boy's or girl's bicycle."  A "country music band" provides music for the street dance.  Proceeds benefit the Yrac Rural Fire Department, though members of the Cary fire department assist with activities. (May 4, 1963)

Hole knocked in Public Utilities building behind fire station, for temporary housing of Chevrolet service truck. Fire engine is longer than the concrete-block building, so plastic cloth protects front of the apparatus which protrudes from the shelter no

Calvin Beck becomes first paid Fire Chief.  Salary is $4,587. cfd


Apparatus delivery: 1957 Chevrolet service truck.

1964

Twelfth Annual Fireman's Day held.  Activities begin with a 3:00 p.m. parade which includes "marching bands from Apex, Wake Forest, Clayton, Knightdale and Cary Schools, the first official appearance of Miss Cary, a Miss Yrac and other fire department queens, fire apparatus from all Wake County departments, a Model T fire truck, political candidates, town officials, floats from various businesses in the area, scouts, clowns, and a U.S. Marine display" reports the April 29 edition of The Raleigh Times.  Parade marches "from Urban Drive down Chatham Street and onto Academy Street." A fish-fry is held at the junior high school cafeteria and street dancing in the Winn-Dixie parking lot.  Music is provided by "Red Rose and the Dixie Mountain Boys."  And a 1964 "Ford automobile" is given away as a door prize (Saturday after April 29, 1964)rt

Fire department has three full-time and 15 part-time firefighters as of November 22, 1964 no

1965

Donald Tripp named Fire Chief (January 1, 1965)

Thirteenth Annual Fireman's Day held.  Event is sponsored by Yrac Rural Fire Department and begins with a parade at 3:00 p.m., followed by games, a fish-fry, a street dance, and the "giving away of a color television set" reports the April 30 edition of The Raleigh Times.  During the parade, fire and police officials direct traffic "from US 64 to NC 54." (May 1, 1965) rt


Station #1 completed on 100 N. Academy Street.

Apparatus delivery: 1965 American LaFrance pumper, 1000 GPM, open-cab

1966

Seaboard Railroad boxcar on N. West Street, behind Suttons Service Station catches fire. Alarm is reported at 10:30 a.m. by telephone.  Engine #1 responds with six firefighters, who extinguish the fire with a booster line. "Grease on brakes" is cited as the cause of ignition.  No damage is reported.  (January 8, 1966) fr

Fourteenth Annual Fireman's Day held. Event is sponsored by Yrac Rural Fire Department and begins with a "square dance festival" at 2:00 p.m. reports the May 7 edition of The News and Observer.  From 4 to 6 p.m., children are given "free fire truck rides."  From 4 to 8 pm., a "fish fry" is held in the cafeteria of the junior high school.  Games, door prizes, and a "dance in the school gym" are also held.  (May 7, 1966) nt

John Ward named Fire Chief (October 15, 1966)

Garage apartment at corner of Ward and Cedar streets burns.  Alarm is reported at 3:45 p.m. by both telephone and person coming to station.  Engine #1, Engine #2, and Ladder #1 respond.  Fourteen firefighters battle blaze, one suffering first- and second-degree burns on "hands, forearms, face, and small part of back."  Fire is confined to apartment, with $6500 loss.  Cause is cited as "faulty oil heater." 1,400 feet of 2 1/2" hose and 800 feet of 1 1/2" hose utilized. (December 11, 1966) 

1967

Fifteenth Annual Fireman's Day held.  More than 5,000 people attend.  Proceeds benefit Yrac Rural Fire Department.  Events include "free rides on the department's big red fire trucks," a "gospel singing contest," and "a dance in the junior high gym" reports the May 8 edition of The Raleigh Times. Profits will go to the rural fire department's "building and equipment fund." rt (May 8, 1967)

Lee Mathews named Fire Chief (January 21, 1967)

C. F. (?) Ascue named Fire Chief (May 1, 1967)

1968

John L. Dew named Fire Chief (July 30, 1968)

1969

Billy Henderson named Fire Chief (February 7, 1969)


Fire department has three full-time and 17 volunteer firefighters cfd

1970

Historic Page House destroyed by fire as Town is preparing for Centennial celebration. Fire starts at 2:30 a.m. in electrical wiring on the first floor and has spread to the second floor by the time the first firefighter arrives.  The nearest fire hydrant on Academy Street proves dry and before another hydrant can be located, the fire truck's 500 gallon water tank is emptied.  Firefighters race to the next hydrant, near the Yrac fire station, laying 2000 feet of supply line.  By the time more water is flowed, flames are almost through the roof.  By dawn, only a handful of charred timbers of the main house and a lone smokehouse are standing (September 22, 1970) aac


Fire department has six full-time and 19 volunteer firefighters cfd

Insurance Services Office (ISO) improves Cary's fire rating from 7 to 3.  Homeowners save an average of $100 a year on fire insurance. cn09jun93

1971

Terry L. Edmondson named Fire Chief (January 4, 1971)

Donald McLamb is Assistant Chief  (May 1971)coy

Town Safety Committee makes recommendations for improvements, citing "growing pains" and the results of a four-week inquiry into "all phases of the Fire Department."  Recommendations include becoming a "fully paid department when funds are available," the immediate installation of a new radio system, an addition to the "present Central Fire Station," drill scheduling, and the drawing up of a "Code of Conduct" that should emphasize "drinking habits, driving habits, and any other personal habits which would reflect on the individual, the Fire Department or the uniform." (September 23, 1971) 

Fire department has nine full-time and 18 volunteer firefighters as of September 23, 1971

Cary Area Rescue Squad chartered.  First call is answered at 4:15 p.m. on August 11, 1972.  Fire Department discontinues rescue service.  Rescue squad is formed by firefighters from Yrac, plus one Cary firefighter.   First rescue squad Chief is Jerry Adams.  aaac Two decades or so later, when the organization changes its name to Cary Area EMS, the orange and white heavy rescue truck is transferred to the Fire Department, painted red and white, and placed in service as Rescue #2


Apparatus deliveries: American LaFrance 1000 GPM pumper purchased. Another older, pumper is refurbished cfd

Two-way radio equipment replacement program started. Radio system also tied into County-wide radio system

1972

Contract for $78,000 signed to add additional apparatus room, larger sleeping quarters, a large training room, and more storage area to Station #1 (February 1972)

Fire department begins dispatching Cary Area Rescue Squad. Upon organization of Cary Area Rescue Squad, fire department discontinues rescue squad (mid-August, 1972)


Fire department has 12 full-time and 10 volunteer firefighters cfd

1970 Ford 1/2 ton pick-up truck purchased and later equipped with "dry chemicals for fighting fuel or gasoline fires" cfd

Chief's car purchased cfd

New radio base station and new mobile radios installed cfd

1973

Fire department has 14 full-time and 14 volunteer firefighters, three pumpers, one equipment truck, one pick-up truck, and one car cfd

Fire department has a full-time fire prevention officer cfd

New programs involving fire department including servicing and maintaining all fire hydrants and reviewing all site plans for future town development cfd

1974

Fire department has 15 full-time and 11 volunteer firefighters as of January 3, 1974

House fire at 604 Queens Ferry Road kills woman.  Fire is reported at 3:46 a.m.  Firefighters find Marilyn Powell, 41, "lying 'between the stove and the back door in the kitchen, just 36 inches from the back door" reports the January 18 edition of The News and Observer.  Mrs. Powell's twin teenage sons escape.  Police officer arrives and attempts rescue, shooting through lock of outside door to bedroom, but cannot enter because smoke is too thick (January 17, 1974) no

Twenty-second Annual Fireman's Day held.  Hundreds attend the celebration that begins at 4:00 p.m. with "a special firefighting and rescue demonstration given by members of the Fire Department and the Cary Area Rescue Squad." Also included is a "fish-fry dinner" and a "basketball match between the Cary Fire Department and the Cary Police Department" reports the May 8 edition of The Raleigh Times.  Admission to the ball game is a $1 donation to the fire department.  Police officers defeat firefighters 39-34.  Door prizes "given away at halftime" are "an RCA color television, a Honda motorcycle, a 10-speed bicycle, and a Singer sewing machine."  Earlier, firefighters sold tickets for chances to win the prizes.  Coincidentally, none of the four prizes are awarded to Cary residents (May 8, 1974)

House fire at 1016 Wilshire Drive kills three girls. Fire is reported at 3:45 a.m. and is caused by careless smoking. Other occupants escape.  Fire begins in "downstairs area" and sends "heavy smoke into the upstairs area" where the girls are sleeping, reports the June 10 edition of The News and Observer. Killed are Susan Hagwood, 6, and her half sisters Shirley Hathaway, 15, and Elizabeth Hathaway, 16. All three girls die of smoke inhalation, Wake County Coroner Truman Rhodes later reports. (June 9, 1974)no

Town Public Information Officer issues press release requesting citizens make "no non-emergency calls" to the fire department "for at least ten minutes after the siren has been silenced," after automobile fire on December 17 results in multiple calls from news reporters and other people, tying up telephone lines needed by the dispatcher (December 26, 1974) pr 

1975

Station #2 lot purchased. Town agrees to buy "slightly over half an acre" at the Cary Village Shopping Center, reports the May 30 edition of The Raleigh Times. Station is expected to be operating by March, 1976 (May 30, 1975)

Fire Chief Terry L. Edmondson resigns "amid allegations that he made false alarm telephones to his own department" reports the August 2 edition of The News and Observer.  Two calls on July 28 report fires at the South Hills Motor Inn and Helmold Fire.  Voice similarities are noted and a Southern Bell operator tells fire officials that the second caller's number was traced, and was made from Edmondson's home. Captains Dewey W. Poole and Macon W. House are appointed acting chiefs.  (August 7, 1975)cn, no

Fire department has 17 full-time and 13 volunteer firefighters as of August 1, 1975

Ned Perry hired as Fire Chief, serves until 1993.  Perry is 17-year veteran of the Raleigh Fire Department, ranks as a Captain, and is president of the Raleigh Firefighter's Association.  The salary for the position is $15,828 (October 6, 1975)

Fire hydrants "on portions of Chatham and Academy streets" approved by Town Council for painting in red, white, and blue Bicentennial colors, reports the October 15 edition of The Cary News.  Fire Chief Ned Perry protests, showing the Town Council "pictures of unattractively decorated" hydrants and noting "problems firemen could have" if the hydrants are not painted carefully. (Thursday before October 15, 1975)


Apparatus purchase:  1975 GMC service truck with body designed by Fire Chief Ned Perry.  Body work performed by Alexander Welding of Raleigh.  Enclosed body style keeps ladders dry, freeing firefighters from having to clean equipment after runs during rain.  Compartment doors are also lighted and the compartments are custom-fit for the equipment. oh

1976

Fire department begins monitoring CB channel 9, the emergency frequency, after receiving base station donated by Cary citizen Larry H. Royster. (January 1976) cn

McDonald's restaurant at Cary Village and next to Station #2 site burns.  Two engine companies and one ladder company respond from downtown.  The early morning fire, reported at 12:45 a.m., apparently starts "from a wire behind the basement electrical panel box" reports the February 4 edition of The Cary News.  Heavy smoke on second floor alerts "a passing motorist who turned in the alarm."  Extensive damage is done and firefighters remain on the scene until 2:00 a.m.  (Wednesday before February 4, 1976) cn

Brush fire burns 40 to 50 acres of land "between NC 54 and Hillsborough Road from the WPTF towers to Wayside Furniture" reports the March 3 edition of The Cary News.  Nine fire departments assist Cary Rural Fire Department while Cary City and Apex respond to another woods fire "in the 900 block of West Chatham Street."  Cary Rural Fire Department Fire Chief David Weaver believes first fire was actually "five different fires which were ignited by sparks from the brakes of a passing train." (March 3, 1976)

Last Fireman's Day held.  Twenty-fourth annual event is sponsored by both Cary and Yrac fire departments.  Celebration starts with "games at the Cary Office Center on Walnut Street" reports the April 28 edition of The Raleigh Times.  Same consist of an "inter-department water fight" and a "bucket brigade race."  Next is a "famous flounder fish fry" from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the Cary Elementary School.  "Quizzo" starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Academy Street fire station with hot dogs "available for refreshments."  Live music starts at 8 p.m. "in the parking lot of the Fidelity Bank across the street from the Academy Street fire station."  Morning Dew performs.  Door prize drawings are held at 10:00 p.m. with "dollar chances" sold for "prizes consisting of a Teaberry C.B. radio, microwave oven, outdoor gas grill," a ten-speed bicycle, and a skateboard. (May 1, 1976) rt 

Station #2 completed on 875 NE Maynard Road.  Total cost of station, including land and landscaping, is slightly more than $200,000 (August, 1976)

Fire department has 26 full-time employees and 11 auxiliary firefighters, four pumpers, and one ladder truck as of December 5, 1976

1977

Cook Out restaurant at 500 Chatham Street burns.  Fire is reported at 3:28 a.m. and firefighters arrive one minute later to find wooden A-frame structure fully engulfed in flames.  Fire is under control within ten minutes, but thirty-four firefighters remain on the scene for three hours.  More than a dozen cans of pain stored on the second level of the one-story structure may have helped the fire spread. Both the building, valued at $35,000 and $18,000 worth of cooking equipment, are a total loss. Fire is believed started by ignition of several quarts of floor cleaner, perhaps by severe winds causing an electrical shortage. (March 23, 1977) rt23mar77

Siren removed from Station #1 (July-August, 1977) yfd


First female joins as volunteer firefighter

1978

Freight train derails near Old US.1 just west of Cary. Four empty coal cars on a Seaboard Coast Line train derail in afternoon accident.  No injures are reported. (February 2, 1978) no03feb78

Distraught man kills self and wife with bomb at Cary Village Shopping Center. Blast occurs about noon in conference room of law office, after Jerry Ronald Sowers, 32, threatens to "blow up himself and everyone in the building" unless allowed to talk to his wife alone at a 9 a.m. meeting to discuss a separation agreement.  Opening his vest and revealing a six-inch device covered with gray tap, Sowers first demands to take his wife out of the building.  Later, holding a battery in one hand and a bare wire in the other, he demands to spend an hour with his wife alone.  About 10 a.m., his lawyer persuades Sowers to have the talk in the conference room.  The building is evacuated about 10:30 a.m.  Police grant Sowers his requested hour at 11:50 a.m.  Minutes later, both Sowers and his wife, Anne Elizabeth Sowers, 36, are killed instantly.  Fire Chief Ned Perry estimates the force of the explosion equal to "several sticks of dynamite." Investigators later say they may never be able to determine if the bomb was accidentally or intentionally triggered. (May 11, 1978) no12may78, no13may78

Joyce Finnerty hired as first fire educator for fire department.  (October 1978) cn11oct78


1953 Seagrave pumper assigned to brush fire duties

1979

1963 Dodge 4-wheel drive brush truck placed in service.  Former Air Force ambulance was purchased as military surplus for $700.00 in 1978.  Low-mileage vehicle (11,000 miles) was obtained from an Army Surplus Depot and rebuilt by firefighters (with consultation of town mechanics) into brush truck at cost of $1,500.  The conversion took place at both fire stations #1 and #2 and at the Town Shop. (May 10, 1979)

Fire department accepts applications for four positions.  First step in application process is passing an aptitude test administered by the Employment Security Commission. Once past that hurdle, applications face a series of fire department tests including carrying a specific amount of weight for a certain distance and carrying a hose up a ladder. Once hired, incoming firefighters learn to maneuver with equipment and are expected to begin a physical exercise program.  During a four-week orientation phase, rookies must learn every piece of equipment on a fire truck.  There's also a written exam and dexterity tests.  At the end of four weeks, the firefighter is assigned to an officer and company and can officially be called a Firefighter I.  The starting pay range is from $10,005 to $13,250. (June 1979) cn06jun79

Town gets 911 emergency telephone service, becoming first Wake County community to adopt the shorter number. (Monday after October 5, 1979) no05oct79

Town revamps pay schedules for all employees, bringing salary levels in line with comparable municipalities (Winter 1979) cn

Fire department completes fire hydrant replacement project, changing 900 hydrants to "national standard threads" in a seven-day period. (December 1980) cn02jan80

1980

Fire department adopts SLEP, Service Life Extension Program after program receives endorsement from town Safety Committee. Program is designed to extend the life of current equipment and is planned to begin by modernizing two pumpers.  Engine #2 will be rebuilt, with diesel, pump ratios, transmission, air brake systems, and gauges all replaced and extending the life of the apparatus by better than 20 years.  The refurbishing is estimated at $45,000, compared to the replacement cost for an equal engine in excess of $90,000.  Engine #4 is already being revamped, with work continuing on an in-house basis, and which should be completed in three to six months. (February 1980) cn20feb80

Fire department assumes Public Works duties of creating and maintaining street signs for town.  Facilities are set up at Station #2, complete with lamination machine built by firefighters. Members of "B" shift are "primarily involved in setting up the systematic program" reports the May 14 edition of The Cary News, and "for at least part of every workday, the men of B shift move to a different locale in the town with a work list that has been dictated by observed needs of the police department." Firefighters "have their work cut out for them" as town "is in the process of replacing all concrete street name posts" with upright, single-blade signs with reflecting lettering. (Spring 1980) cn


1953 Seagrave pumper removed from service

Fire department consists of 26 full-time and 14 volunteer firefighters.  Full-time firefighters work eight-hour rotating shifts and are also on-call for major fires.  Out of 26 fire departments in Wake County, Cary and Raleigh are the only ones with paid staffs (June 18, 1980)

1981

1965 American LaFrance pumper rebuilt.  Rebuilding includes installation of 6171T Detroit diesel engine, an MT644 Allison automatic transmission, power steering, complete rewiring, air brakes, cab top, sand blasting, and repainting.  Refurbishment costs $70,022.16 cfd

1982

Fire Prevention Officer Captain Wayne House assists Syracuse Plastics Inc. on Old Apex Road with education of newly formed fire brigade cn (February 1982)

Residence at 200 Wendy Court burns.  Afternoon fire is stared by shorting wires in homemade bird repellant.  Damage is estimated at $30,000.  Firefighters are called to the scene at 2 p.m. (May 16, 1982)


Volunteer firefighters phased out

1983

Brush fires along Seaboard Coastline railroad trucks are fought by around 50 firefighters from Cary, Yrac, Morrisville, Fairgrounds, and Swift Creek fire departments.  First fire is reported at 3:45 p.m., along the tracks near the town hall.  Other fires are fought near Lowes, near Aeroglide Corporation and Bashford Road.  Fires are believed started by sparks or oil from train heading west out of Raleigh, though, when stopped in Apex, nothing is found wrong.(Friday before March 6, 1983) na

Chemical spill at 113 W. Maynard Road causes evacuation of businesses, schools, and residents.  Four firefighters are injured when splattered by percholoroethylene, a dry-cleaning substance, while trying to plug the leak on a truck transporting same.  The fluid seeps under their gloves and runs down their chests.  They're treated on the scene, with water and subsequent lotion.  One of the four, Captain William Reynolds, is hospitalized after inhaling the substance, 175 gallons of which are eventually released onto the ground.  Police close Maynard Road from Kildare Farm Road to Pond Street, close three businesses and evacuate Briarcliff Elementary School at about 1:30 p.m..  More than 60 firefighters from nine departments are called to the scene.  Cary firefighters stay on the scene until 2 a.m. the next morning.  Getting enough breathing air proves the greatest challenge, as firefighters attempting to stop the leak keep running out of bottled air.  Firefighters subsequently spend three hours in Raleigh that night, refilling SCBA tanks.  Local restaurants provide food to the exhausted firefighters, both delivering to the scene and feeding more than 30 firefighters for free at a restaurant.  Maynard Road residents are allowed back into their homes after midnight, instructed to leave their windows open for 45 minutes, to ensue any chemical vapors escape. (Monday before March 13, 1983) cn, no

1984

1984, Wolfe's Appliance and Service Company at 140 East Chatham Street burns. Fire is reported about 3:05 p.m.  About 25 firefighters bring blaze under control shortly after arrival, but smolder insulation creates thick brown smoke that pours from building for more than an hour.  Firefighters remain on scene until 9:30 p.m., ensuring flames are out.  Rich's Style Shop suffers minor smoke damage.  Police reroute traffic around area for about two hours. (Sunday before November 26, 1984) no26nov84

1987

Station #3 completed at 1807 Kildare Farm Road.  Site is located one mile farther south than first site purchased near Kildare Farm Road and Cary Parkway, but abandoned at recommendation of Fire Chief, who believes same is too close to Station #1. aaac

Fire department has 44 firefighters, two employees in Fire Prevention, two Assistant Fire Chiefs, and one Fire Chief, three engine companies and one ladder company, with three firefighters assigned to each, as of August 2, 1987

Current support vehicles: cfd

Car 1 1987 Chevrolet, four-door sedan, driven by Fire Chief
Car 2 1986 Chevrolet, 3/4 ton carry-all, driven by Assistant Chief
Car 3 1986 Chevrolet, 3/4 ton carry-all, driven by Assistant Chief
Car 4 1987 Chevrolet, 3/4 ton carry-all, driven by Assistant Chief
Car 47 1987 Mercury Zephyr, driven by Fire Inspector
Car 48 1980 Chevrolet Malibu, driven by Fire Inspector
Unit 18 1970 Ford, 1/2 ton pick-up truck
Unit B9 1986 Dodge, 1 ton van, driven by Bulk Water Sales Technician [ former Haz-Mat truck? ]

 

1988

Rushing rainwater sweeps 13 year-old boy into drainage culvert while crossing creek in woods near Nottingham Circle and Harlon Drive.  Accident occurs about 4:20 p.m.  Water carries boy about 75 yards into four-foot diameter culvert which gradually descends underground and eventually runs under Interstate 40.  Firefighters, altered by boy's friend who runs for help, remove cover off of catch basin and retrieve boy, who grabs crack in cement wall near the catch basin. (July 10, 1988) rt11jul88

Station #4 completed at 1401 Old Apex Road

Fire department responds to 1513 emergencies for year, averaging over four per day cfd

1989

Building at 306 Middleton Avenue burns (January 13, 1989) noi

Fire department has 73 employees including one full-time bulk water sales person, has two specialized, 18-person teams-- hazardous materials and fire investigation--, operates four engine companies, one ladder company, one ladder / salvage truck, and has two engines in reserve, with every firefighter a certified Emergency Medical Technician as of September 9, 1989 cfd

Carolina Computer Store at 700 Western Boulevard Extension burns.  Fire starts in rear storeroom and guts business.  Nearby York Sports Club and Economy Dry Cleaners receive smoke damage.  Fire alarm is received at 1:45 a.m.  About 30 firefighters respond.  Damage to computer store's inventory is estimated at $100,000.  Businesses are located in Cary Village Square. (September 15, 1989) no19sep89

Ace Hardware & Home Center at Mayfair Plaza at Kildaire Farm and E. Maynard Roads damaged by explosion and fire. Suspicious blaze starts about 9:15 p.m. in enclosed area behind store.  Explosion, from 40-pound liquid propane tank used as forklift fuel supply, spreads fire to rear of store.  Fire is latest of several suspicious fires around shopping center. (November 12, 1989) rt13nov89

1989-90

Replacement, 800mhz "trunked" radio system installed cfd

1991

Medlin-Davis Cleaners at MacGregor Village burns.  Fire is reported about 2:00 p.m. and destroys three-fourths of the building's equipment.  Kerr Drugs and Hot Shots Billiards & Pub also suffer damage. (December 2, 1991)

1992

Station #1 completed at 1501 North Harrison Ave. Constructed at cost of $1.3 million on 6.5 acres of land donated by SAS Institute Inc. on condition that fire station is designed to "blend architecturally" with nearby homes. aaac

Old Station #1 at 100 N. Academy Street converted to Fire Administration Building

1993

Fire Chief is Wayne House

Fire department has 68 firefighters, five fire prevention officers, three assistant chiefs, and one Fire Chief

1994

Construction worker trapped after ten-foot trench collapses.   Worker laying pipes for new water tower on Cary Parkway near Kildare Farm Road is buried around 5:20 p.m. and rescued after six hours and subsequently flown to Duke University Medical Center no (Monday after June 14, 1994)

1995

Natural gas leak on Walnut Street prompts evacuation of more than 300 homes in Greenwood Acres and Pirates Cove, as well as the Cary Towne Center. The 12-inch main requires several hours to repair (Thursday before August 12, 1995)


Restoration of 1953 Seagrave pumper started at cost of about $20,000 no

Apparatus Delivery: 1995 Mack service truck.  Body style is designed as same style as 1975 GMC service truck. oh

1996

Woodcreek apartments on Woodcreek Dr. burn. Four units destroyed in evening fire (Wednesday before November 1, 1996) no


Station #5 completed at 2101 High House Road.  Facility includes Police Department substation.

1997

Rex Wellness Center of Cary burns after propane gas explosion. Two workers injured. Fire quickly extinguished (Friday before August 2, 1997) no

Fire department celebrates 75th anniversary, with five engine companies, two truck companies, one ladder company, and one rescue company employing 120 full-time employees and an annual budget of $5.3 million.  The department serves a town of 82,000 people and 40 square miles (October 11, 1997)

2000

Amber Woods apartments at 113 Ribbon Lane burn. Eight units destroyed in early morning fire (Wednesday before January 20, 2000)no

2001

Station #6 completed at 3609 Ten-Ten Road.

2002

Garden Supply Company at 1421 Old Apex Road burns. Afternoon fire takes over an hour to control. Seven Cary units answer call, with mutual aid from Western-Wake, Morrisville, Fairview, and Apex. Firefighters Tim Gouge and Todd Dollar are slightly injured when Ladder 3 suffers a collapse, the platform dropping 8 to 10 feet. A temporary replacement truck is delivered within days. (June 4, 2002) no

Apparatus delivery:  2002 Pierce Dash pumper, 1250 GPM single-stage Waterous pump, 500 gallon tank. Placed in service as Engine 1 (August 2002) pm, oh

Fire Chief Wayne House retires.  Fire department starts national search for replacement (December 2002)

2003

Deputy Fire Chief R. Allan Cain appointed interim Fire Chief (January 1, 2003) pr

R. Allan Cain appointed Fire Chief (April 10, 2003) pr

Apparatus deliveries:  two 2003 Pierce Dash pumpers, 1250 GPM Waterous pump, 500 gallons, with 475 hp Detroit Diesel series 60 engines, 8kw Harrison generators, hydraulic ladder racks, and EMS cabinets in crew cab.  Placed in service as Engines 5 and 6 (April 2003).pm, oh

2004

Apparatus notes: 

  • 2004 Pierce Dash platform ladder delivered in April 2004.  Placed in service as Truck 5 (May 2004)
  • Truck 5 removed from service.  Truck 7 placed in service at Station 5 (May 2004)
  • Old Ladder 1 sold to Buis Creek, NC (May 2004)

Sources

  • cb - Calvin Beck, History of Cary Fire Department, 1921-1937
  • cfd - Cary Fireman's Day records
  • cn - Cary News
  • dr - Department Records
  • fr - Fire or Alarm Record
  • gn - Garner News
  • na - News article
  • no - News and Observer
  • pm - Pierce Manufacturing
  • pr - Press Release
  • rt - Raleigh Times
  • sos - NC Secretary of State
  • ts - The State Magazine
  • wcfa - Wake County Fireman's Association records
  • yfd - Yrac Fire Department records

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Copyright 2013 by Michael J. Legeros