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Exciting Recent Posts

Scenes From Services
UPDATED - Oteen Veterans Administration Hospital Fire Department (2 comments)
UPDATE #3 - Fires in Historic Oakwood (4 comments)
Photo of FDNY IMT Units En Route to Buffalo (2 comments)
Remembering Sunday School at Raleigh Fire Stations
BMW vs. Fire Hydrant in Boston - The Rest of the Story (2 comments)
Hydrant Streams > Engine Streams, But When?
CANCELED - (Another) Wake County Fire Commission Meeting - November 20, 2014
Best Fire Report Entry Ever - February 1963 (3 comments)
New Carolinas Fire Page Promotional Video
Raleigh Fire Department "Outside Calls" in 1962
Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dies - November 15, 1931
Nine Killed in Plane Crash at Mount Mitchell - October 5, 1949
Seven School Children Killed in Bus Accident - October 6, 1949 (3 comments)
Today's Pedestrian Bridge Collapse in Raleigh
Service Trucks of Raleigh and Cary
One-Page Summary of Fires in Historic Oakwood
Judge Biggs, Issac Hunter, One Fire, and a Lot of History (3 comments)
Swift Creek's New Tanker (1 comment)
Two Alarms on Royal Anne Lane (24 comments)

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Goose (Two Alarms on Roy…): Just to throw in a little more thought for you on…
Legeros (Two Alarms on Roy…): From the horses’ mouth(es), here’s what coming wi…
maybe not... (Two Alarms on Roy…): I believe the only difference in the new engine w…
Rescue Ranger (Two Alarms on Roy…): I think the future outlook of having 4 squads wil…
Brandon (Two Alarms on Roy…): The squad concept didn’t fail.. It was wanted by …
Rescue Ranger (Two Alarms on Roy…): The original intent of squads on fire dispatches …
Legeros (Two Alarms on Roy…): Mr. (or Mrs.?) Ranger, am unsure about labeling t…
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stretch (Photo of FDNY IMT…): Those units are FDNY High Water Units the Feds pu…
Rescue Ranger (Two Alarms on Roy…): @Irony – The squad program was tried for a year a…
FF Cham (BMW vs. Fire Hydr…): “But we’re more than our mistakes, aren’t we?” I…
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Jeff (Best Fire Report …): If I was on this call, we still wouldn’t clear ti…
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Bob (Two Alarms on Roy…): I don’t think there is any risk to job security. …
Legeros (Seven School Chil…): The accident at Blount and East Lenoir happened o…
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car3550 (Seven School Chil…): One of the worse ones I have heard of was the Sno…
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+ 0 - 0 | § Scenes From Services

Spare and surplus apparatus at the Support Services Center on New Bern Avenue, along with a trio of support vehicles. Can you name them all? (The ladder trucks were only the second and third aerial platforms in the department's history. They followed a 1977 Mack/Baker aerialscope.) See more in this series of photos from Tuesday, at the retirement party for Asst. Facilities Manager Lt. David Ritchie. Or click to enlarge this montage:

+ 0 - 1 | § UPDATED - Oteen Veterans Administration Hospital Fire Department

November 25
From a visit in October, here are pictures of the two fire station buildings still standing. The 1934 structure is now part of a nursing home. The 1959 structure is now part of a credit union building. The rear section is the old station. Found those thanks to Brian Lawrence's excellent new book Firefighting in Buncombe County. Read prior posting. As for these, see more photos as well as larger versions:


July 21
In 1918, US Army General Hospital No. 19, located approximately four miles east of downtown Asheville, NC, began serving soldiers who were training for World War I duty. The hospital was located in the community of Azalea, which was previously known as Gudger’s Ford before being renamed for the flowering bush.

Dr. Z. P. Gruner opened the facility in 1875 as the country’s first private tuberculosis sanitarium. Also known as Azalea Hospital, it later became the only Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital in the southeast devoted to the treatment of respiratory ailments.

Also in 1918, Sales Order 8790 was issued by the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company of Elmira, NY, specifying details from the United States government for sixteen fire engines subsequently assigned to facilities throughout the country.

Fourteen were Type 75 triple combination pumpers, with specifications of a 156.5” wheelbase, 105-horsepower, six-cylinder engine, and a 750 gallon-per-minute rotary gear pump. This was a very popular apparatus sold between 1915 and 1927, and many served throughout North Carolina.1


+ 2 - 1 | § UPDATE #3 - Fires in Historic Oakwood

November 23
Research documents again updated. Finding more fires, notably those that were very minor. Still five tiers to these categories, but using loss/damage to determine Tier 2 versus Tier 3. And yet some nits to pick. The 200+ smaller fires include a couple that probably belong in the "big list." And maybe a sixth tier should be added, where we don't have damage/loss amounts. Or maybe the whole tier system is confusing, and one big list sorted by address is better. Or a master index. Yes, one more list! Will ponder.

Read the research document (PDF).
Read a one-page summary of the research (PDF).

November 16
Here are a couple photos. Left to right, top to bottom are (black and white) 222 North Bloodworth on February 17, 1957, 407 Polk on February 18, 1958, 403 Edenton Street x 2 on July 23, 1978, and 202 Linden on March 20, 1984. News & Observer credit for all. Color photos are (first set) 515 Oakwood on October 12, 1991 (Jeff Harkey), 500 Franklin on April 6, 1992 x 2 (Jeff Harkey), 405-407 New Bern on June 20, 1993 (Jeff Harkey), 501 Oakwood on November 3, 1999 (Lee Wilson), and 100 North Bloodworth on July 5, 2001 (Lee Wilson). Second set are 405 N. East Street on January 10, 2010 (Mike Legeros) and 704 E. Franklin Street on October 10, 2011 (Mike Legeros).

Click once or twice to enlarge:

News & Observer photos

Jeff Harkey, Lee Wilson photos

Mike Legeros photos


+ 0 - 0 | § Photo of FDNY IMT Units En Route to Buffalo

From a reader, this neat photo was posted on the New York City Fire Department Facebook page (see post), and shared by and FireRescue Magazine's Facebook page (see post). Got that? Caption from FDNY is "Today 35 members of the FDNY's Incident Management Team were deployed to Buffalo, NY, to assist residents following the area's record snowfall." Thanks for sending, Ted!

What is the FDNY IMT? Here's a Firefighter Nation story from 2009 that provides a profile. Google for other articles about them. What are the trucks seen the photo? And the complete roster of deployed units? To be determined. Believe those "troop carrier" trucks were purchased after Hurricane "super storm" Sandy, as response units for flooded areas. Recall reading same in Fire Apparatus Journal, if memory serves. Maybe readers can help.

Anyone from North Carolina is famliiar with the concept, of course. Fire (and police) departments across eastern North Carolina (and probalby the entire southeast) have repurposed surplus military "deuces" for storm response. (And/or they call the National Guard for such help.) We're prone to those pesky hurricanes in these parts. Maybe we can dig up a few photos. Meanwhile, click to enlarge:

FDNY photo

+ 0 - 0 | § Remembering Sunday School at Raleigh Fire Stations

On Sunday November 5, 1967, a service was held at Raleigh Fire Station 1 celebrating the twelve anniversary of the fire department's Sunday school program. The event started at 2:30 p.m. and the program is shown to the right.

The program was started as extension of the Men's Bible Class of the Edenton Street Methodist Church. The first classes were held at Station 1 on November 3, 1955. Nearly nine years later, the classes were also held at Station 5 and Station 7. And would be starting at Station 9 in the summer of 1965.

Other churches assisted with the classes. White Memorial Presbyterian, Hayes Barton Methodist, Hayes Barton Baptist, and St. John's Baptist helped with the classes at Station 5. Longview Baptist was the partner for the programs at Station 7. Emmanuel Baptist would be assisting with the classes at Station 9.

Noted a Raleigh Times story on June 20, 1964, four men "not members of the fire department" were play key roles in organizing the original class at Station 1 (and which included firemen from nearby Station 2). The included E. Y. Floyd who was a long time Sunday school teacher, Dr. W. D. Miller who accompanied the singing firemen on the piano, and E. C. Banks who was the group's leader. And Pat Murphy, an insurance underwriter and a member of Edenton Street Methodist Church.

Said of Murphy in the story, he was "perhaps the man most responsible for the formation of the classes" nine years earlier.


Singing hymns was an important part of each Sunday's service. The fireman sang at least three or four hymns. Said Banks to the newspaper "We certainly don't claim to be professional singers," "[but] we make up with enthusiasm what we might lack in musical skill."

The singing firemen have also made outside appearances as a choral group. Notes the story, they've "sung for North Street Baptist twice and Layden Memorial Methodist a like number of times."

What happens when there's a fire during class? Said Miller, "The firemen slid down the pole right in the middle of class" and then "come back and [resume] the classes when the fire is put out."

Rescue Office Harold Jones, acting President of the class, could recall only one or two times that "school" was interrupted. At least on his shift. (There were two shifts at this time.) And those fires "didn't amount to much." (The other officers for the 1963-64 term were James E. Warren as Vice President, and Jack Barden as Treasurer.) Click to enlarge:

Raleigh Times photos - July 1964 (left) and July 1961 (right)

Offerings are taken during each service and the monies benefit needy Raleigh families. The class members at Station 6 (comprised of firemen from Stations 4, 5, and 6) also donated for a project to fund bible translators for Brazilian Indians. The firemen sent monthly checks to the project coordinators for about three years.

When Floyd was available to act as teacher, firemen served as substitute teachers: Jones, Charles Wood, and Richard Mabry. Three retired firemen continued to attend classes after leaving the department: V. C. Mims, B. A. Edwards, and M. E. Perry.

Noting this important point, Fire Chief Jack Keeter said "the classes haven't jeopardize fire service at all." And "the firemen stay in their own territory when they attend the classes. The trucks are on hand and they are ready to go to the fire when the alarm rings."

There's also been a side benefit to the station-based classes. Firemen who attended on duty invariably attended church service more frequently, and all of which brings members of the fire department closer to each other.

Added Keeter, "When we were talking about [starting] the classes, we wanted to avoid any mockery and fly-by-night aspects." He added "We wanted to run the classes just as they were run in regular churches."

The firefighters have also had a chance to directly "pay back their debt" to Edenton Street Methodist Church. After a devastating fire in 1956, one of the contributions for rebuilding came from the fire department.

Additional notes, from a Raleigh Times story three years earlier on July 29, 1961:


+ 1 - 1 | § BMW vs. Fire Hydrant in Boston - The Rest of the Story

With apologies to Paul Harvey. You probably saw the picture out of Boston last week, of a black BMW parked in front of a fire hydrant, and with one of their jakes trying to attach a supply line. The image was taken and tweeted by the Boston Fire Department. Or maybe you saw a second image of the thing, with the valve attached but the line not charged. There wasn't room with the car there.

This Boston Globe story from Monday detailed the incident, a three-alarm fire at a South End apartment building. Correspondent Jennifer Smith noted that "efforts to battle the blaze were hampered by a BMW station wagon..." etcetera, etcetera. Or as the BFD noted in their tweeted image, "This never helps."

Reporter Yvonne Abrahams has returned to the scene, and written a thoughtful Boston Globe piece on the owner of said illegally parked BMW. The owner's "bout of instant infamy" is a good reminder that "we are more than our mistakes." She writes about how his vehicle came to came to be parked there, his surprise, shock, and regret after learning where he'd parked and what happened, and his reaction to the reactions of others as posted on social media and the web. As you can surmise, or perhaps have felt yourself about the story, the latter involving a lot of outrage.

There are also reactions to the reactions, as the story's comment section shows. Meta comments, guess we'd call them. Pretty easy one for casting stones. Outrage is so very easy, isn't it? Judgment as well, just take a number. We're always in line, ready with our opinions. Certified human trait #1. Just as our capacity for error is certified human trait #2. 

But we're more than our mistakes, aren't we? 

Boston Fire Department photos

+ 0 - 1 | § Hydrant Streams > Engine Streams, But When?

Everyone knows the short history of fire suppression in Raleigh. First with buckets or blankets or whatever whatever you. Then the first hand-powered pumping engine in 1819. Then the first steam-powered pumping engine in 1870. Then the first chemical engine in 1878.

Then the first fire hydrants in 1887, which directly powered hand streams. Then the first gasoline-powered pumping engine in 1914. Plus accompanying hand- and building-based suppression systems: pails of water or sand, water or chemical fire extinguishers, chemical fire grenades, sprinker systems, etc.

But when exactly did pumping engine-powered hose streams become the norm? From 1914 forward, arriving firefighters had three choices: "chemicals" (there were chemical tanks on the pumpers and service truck through 1926), hydrant streams, or engine streams. 

Here's a chart that helps answer that question. This is excerpted from the yearly "report of fires" ledger book. Each fire call was entered, with details including alarm time, method of receiving alarm, address, owner, occupant, suppression activities, and loss of building and/or contents.

These entries are from October 1931. That year, the form included a section on "How Extinguished" and with options included "With Chemicals," "With Hydrant Streams," and "With Engine Streams."

As indicted, all three options were being used. Thus we can concluded that, as late 1931, "engine pumping" wasn't the exclusive norm. But more data is needed. Such as a review of the entire year, and adjoining years. More to follow... at some point. 

Believe hydrant streams fell out of favor that decade, maybe even by mid-decade. The fire report forms in the 1940s were changed and no longer contained that field.

We also need a little more context. Just how frequent or rare were fires, structural or otherwise? How big or small were these incidents? Again, more to follow... at some point!1 

1Just look through all years, and find the last checked box for "hydrant streams," right? Wish it were that simple. The entries are inconsistent from year to year. In 1931, the Fire Chief (or other recorder) included the suppression details. In other years, those fields are left blank. The details were not recorded.

+ 0 - 0 | § CANCELED - (Another) Wake County Fire Commission Meeting - November 20, 2014

November 18
This meeting has been canceled. It will be rescheduled for a date in December.

November 17
A second meeting of the Wake County Fire Commission will be held this month, on Thursday, November 20, at 7:00 p.m. Different location, however. This time they're meeting at Garner Fire Station 1, 503 W. Main Street. 

There's only a single item on the agenda, a presentation on the Cost Sharing, Funding and Service Delivery Analysis Study. Here's a prior blog post about that study, of which the preliminary report was released in September. Read that document (PDF, 3.2M).

Public comments will also be received. There are thirty minutes scheduled for receiving comments, with a maximum of three minutes per person. See the signup sheet at the entrance of the meeting room. Please register if you wish to speak.

+ 0 - 0 | § Best Fire Report Entry Ever - February 1963

This one's so getting added to my Historic Oakwood narrative...

From Raleigh Fire Department, Daily Report of Fires, February 12, 1963:

Time out: 12:47 p.m.
Time in: 1:45 p.m.
Alarm: Telephone
Address: 216 N. Bloodworth Street
Call Type: Service
Unit: Rescue 1
Nature of Incident: Take alligator out of house.

+ 0 - 1 | § New Carolinas Fire Page Promotional Video

Carolinas Fire Page has produced their first promotional video, a nifty one-minute clip featuring footage and stills from such fire photography luminaries as Thomas Bab, Bob Bartosz, Jeff Harkey, Julian Harrison, Mike Legeros, Jason Thompson, and Lee Wilson. Here's a page listing the credits. Oh, and CFP dispatchers are wanted. They're the ones that make the system work. Inquire today.

+ 0 - 1 | § Raleigh Fire Department "Outside Calls" in 1962

Back in the day, the Raleigh Fire Department recorded every emergency call (and requests for service) in an oversized ledger book. Say eighteen by twelve inches in size. There were columns across two pages, with fields for such information as Date, Time(s), How Alarm was Received, Location, Owner of Building, Occupant of Building, Type of Building, Type of Fire, Suppression Equipment Used, and Value and Loss of Building and Contents.

There are ledger books were used from at least the mid 1920s to the mid 1980s. The information was likely recorded by either the Fire Chief or Assistant Fire Chief. There were monthly and annual tallies of data, as notations indicate in margins. By the 1960s, a sheet of paper was inserted that listed the fire deaths of that year. (The carefully formatted information, or summaries therein, were probably or certainly transmitted to the State Department of Insurance.)

In the 1962 record book, all "outside calls" were recorded with a red pencil. This certainly helped more readily locate these entries. Why purpose would that data serve? Could have been anything, from analyzing the amount of mutual aid to considerations for future service needs for future annexations of "fringe areas."

Here's a transcription of the entries from that year. They present a nifty snapshot of their time:

Also recorded were more than a couple instances of city fire companies filling in at Six Forks Fire Department, such as Engine 4 on November 30, 1962. Wonder if they also assisted in that capacity with Fairgrounds or New Hope? (Those three being the sum of "suburban" fire departments that served the city at the time.)

+ 0 - 0 | § Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dies - November 15, 1931

Found while doing microfilm research. From the News & Observer, November 16, 1931. Death notice (and funeral report) for Chapel Hill Fire Chief John Lee Foister, who died on November 15. He died of heart failure. He was chief for twenty-nine years, but had been in declining health for several years. (The article doesn't advise if he was active as chief at the time of his death.) His service was conducted at the Baptist Church of Chapel Hill and he was buried in the town cemetary. His pallbearers included fire chiefs from Durham, Greensboro, and High Point. Click once or twice to enlarge:

+ 1 - 0 | § Nine Killed in Plane Crash at Mount Mitchell - October 5, 1949

Also from the disaster files is the story of a military plane crash at Mount Mitchell. Happened the day before the Nash County school bus incident on Wednesday, October 5, 1949.

As the Raleigh Times reported on October 7, from an AP story, an Air Force C-47 transport crashed  about 10:30 a.m. that morning. All nine about were killed. The wreckage was found "six miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, three-quarters of a mile down on the east side of Mount Mitchell."

All nine were found dead, and the wreckage burned. The plane was found in the morning of the second day of air and ground searchers. "Volunteer crews" of "forest rangers and mountain" aided Army personnel, who were "rushed here" from the Air Force base in Greenville, SC. (Said base located about 100 miles south of the site.)

The searchers were "augmented by a skilled crew of ground searchers" who were flown to the scene from Westover Field, MA. "Army medical personnel" meanwhile "stood by on the mountain."

"It was said at the time two mountain said they heard a noise which could have been the crash of an airplane in the balsam-thatched peaks." The men from the Busick community "immediately gave the alarm." The plane crashed in a "heavily timbered area near a rough road, once the bed of a lumber railroad."

When the plane left Washington-Boling Air Force Base at 8:55 a.m., it had about nine hours worth of fuel. Its destination was Mobile, AL. The plane crashed into the "forested slope of the cloud-shrouded mountain" which is 6,684-feet high.

The Douglas C-47 was the military counterpart of the popular two-engine Douglas DC-3.

Bomber Crash in 1944

Five years earlier, an Army B-24 bomber crashed near Mount Mitchell. The accident occurred about 11:30 p.m. on June 13, 1944. All ten crew members were killed after the plane, on a training flight from Chatham Field in Savannah, "ploughed into Green Knob Mountain." As reported the Burlington Times-News the next day.

The crash occurred in McDowell County, near Mount Mitchell, and a mile and a half from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Memo to self: Add both of these crashes to my deadlest disasters database

Air Ambulance Crash in 1966

Two decades later, an air ambulance crashed on Sunday night, May 22, 1966. The Piper Comanche had disappeared on a trip from Memphis to Marion, NC. They were traveling there to retrieve the body of a "former Memphis man who had died of a heart attack while visiting the mountains." (Again reported by the Times-News.)

Civil Air Patrol search missions (ground and air) were planned for Monday. The wreckage was located early that morning, about 7:15 a.m. It was found near the top of the mountain, at an elevation of "about 6,200 to 6,300 feet." The wreckage was found just below an old parking lot for tourists. Both crew members had been killed.

Here's a YouTube video by the user summitoutdoors posted in 2013, who filmed himself and hikers at the crash site. Significant pieces of the fuselage and tail section still remain on the mountain:



+ 0 - 0 | § Seven School Children Killed in Bus Accident - October 6, 1949

From the disaster files. On Thursday morning, October 6, 1949, a school bus full of children and an ice truck collided in Nash County. Reported the Raleigh Times that day, the bus was "packed with children" when the two vehicles "crashed together" after a blind curve on a narrow wooden bridge. Six children were killed and fourteen were injured.

Some seventy pupils were aboard the bus, which had seats for forty-two. The collision ripped a "hold a yard square" on the driver's side. "Screaming children, books, and lunch baskets littered the swamp-bordered road side." The victims were identify as Judie Massey, Joanne Debnam, and Carolyn Debnam of Zebulon, Route 1; Jean Bryant of Zebulon, Route 3; and Robert Carter and Julian Bryant of Middlesex, Route 1.

The paper also reported that Bobby Lee Strickland, of Middlesex, Route 2, was in "very critical condition and expected to die." He passed away within the day. The injured included more children from Zebulon and Middlesex.

Most of the children were being transported to Ferrells Grammer School, about a mile from the accident site, and about thirty miles east of Raleigh. Families living in the neighborhood "picked up the injured and rushed them to doctors' offices and hospitals over a wide area."

The route was described as a "bad road with a narrow bridge" by the school principle. There was a blind curve approaching the bridge, with views obstructed by roadside grown. The following day's newspaper included photos of the road as drivers would see them.

The ice truck had stopped at the bridge when the bus hit it. The bus was traveling an estimated 25 miles per hour. The impact ripped a nine-foot hole along the side, and sent the bus rolling 152 feet (backward?). There was a "two-foot, three-inch clearance" for the two vehicles to pass.

Many of the injured students were standing, and were thrown to the floor at the time of impact. The bus was overloaded due to a fleet shortage. The school was supposed to have four buses, but only three were operating. The newspaper reported that a coroner's inquest was planned for 10:00 a.m. the following day in Nashville. (He cleared both drivers but noted that highway and school officials were criminally negligent. The ice truck, by the way, was owned by the Zebulon Ice and Coal Company.)

The driver of the bus was a student. The front page of the Raleigh Times also included a short feature commending the safety record of the state's school-aged bus drivers. In another short article, the newspaper cited that thirty-five school children had died in bus accidents since 1933. The two worst each killed four students.

In November 1936, in Cumberland County, a bus collided with a freight van, killing four and injuring eighteen. On March 4, 1946, a school bus ran off a bridge in Franklin County, killing four and injuring ten or more.

The caption for this front page photo on October 6 was "BATTERED SCHOOL BUS AFTER TRAGIC ACCIDENT - Photo [below] was taken early Thursday morning shortly after this Nash County school bus had crashed into an ice truck on a bridge near Middlesex causing the deaths of six young school children and send at least 18 others to scattered hospitals with injuries, some of which were described by doctors as serious. The big gaping hole is shown in the side of the bus where it made impact with the truck as the two vehicles met on the bridge. It was one of the worst school bus accidents in the State's history." Click to slightly enlarge:

+ 0 - 1 | § Today's Pedestrian Bridge Collapse in Raleigh

Here's a recap of today's structural collapse on the north Raleigh campus of Wake Technical Community College. Dispatched initially for Engine 19 at 10:18 a.m., for an injured person. Quickly upgraded with a confined space rescue assignment, which included such fire department resources as Rescue 1, Squad 15, Ladder 3 (special trained for technical rescue), Battalion 5 (rescue chief), and USAR 801 (swift water unit staffed by Engine 25, though members trained in multiple rescue disciplines).

Arriving units found a 250-foot pedestrian bridge in a wooded area, with the center span collapsed. (The 140-section fell from a height of approximately forty feet.) Five patients found, but neither trapped, entrapped, or pinned. Four with serious injuries and non-ambulatory, and classified as trauma due to mechanism of injury. Fifth victim pronounced dead on scene. Four ambulances responded.

The bridge crossed a wooded area on campus and crossed a creek to connect with a parking deck on Success Way. The wetland terrain was a challenge for responders, for assessing, packaging, and extracting the patients. The center span collapsed as workers were pouring concrete onto it.

First EMS unit arrived six minutes later. Last one left the scene with a patient, thirty-three minutes after the incident started. All patients transported to WakeMed. There were no students at the accident site, only construction workers.

Fire response included E19, E28, L5, L3, Sq15, R1, A1, B1, B5, Haz-Mat 2, USAR 1, USAR 801. EMS response included EMS 36, EMS 10, EMS 3, EMS 15, Medic 93, District 3, and Chief 101. Other units included WC7.

Media: WNCN, WRAL, WTVD, News & Observer.

WTVD photo

+ 0 - 0 | § Service Trucks of Raleigh and Cary

Top to bottom, left to right. Credits Lee Wilson (LW), Mike Legeros (MJL), Cary Fire Department (CFD), Jeff Harkey (JH), Richard Adleman Collection (RAC), and News & Observer (N&O).

Related postings:

Click once or twice to enlarge: 

+ 0 - 1 | § One-Page Summary of Fires in Historic Oakwood

Created this one-page research summary for a short talk tomorrow night, to the Historic Oakwood neighborhood association. View the handout (PDF). See this prior posting for information about the project. Read the research results (PDF).

+ 1 - 1 | § Judge Biggs, Issac Hunter, One Fire, and a Lot of History

Recently found this Raleigh Times story in my files from Monday, December 6, 1976. About a fire at the vacant Biggs Estate the day before. The two-story house was located on the west side of [then] Old Wake Forest Road, at the intersection of [then] New Hope Church Road. (Today, that place is the North Raleigh Hilton at the intersection of Wake Forest Road and St. Albans Drive.)

The $250,000 mansion was the residence of the late J. Crawford Biggs. Once Solicitor General under President Franklin Roosevelt, "Judge Biggs" was a law partner of J. Melville Broughton, the former North Carolina Governor and United States Senator. His house was called the Biggs Place and was formerly a country [manor] named Hardimont. It was built in the 1920s (also said the story) by a "Frenchman." More on those points in a moment.

The house had been vacant since the estate was auctioned that October. The furnishings were recently sold and the house was scheduled for demolition. The fire started in the rear of the kitchen on the first floor. Flames then extended through an elevator shaft to the second floor, attic, and across the roof.

It was reported about 3:45 p.m. Two engines, two ladders, one rescue, and about eighteen firefighters answered the call. Firefighters battled the blaze for about three hours. Two rooms, two porches, and part of the attic were destroyed. Those were details from the newspaper, but let's dig deeper. There's much, much more to this story. 

Raleigh Times photograph


The Biggs Estate was built by Andre L. Causee (the aforementioned "Frenchman") circa 1914. He acquired the property ten years earlier, and designed and built a huge country manor that he named The Causee Place. He later renamed the place Hardimont.

Causee sold the property in 1919 to Raleigh developers Daniel Allen (see: Dan Allen Drive) and A. J. Honeycutt. They advertised the Hardimont as "the most desirable suburban home in our knowledge." The house also served as a temporary home for the Carolina Country Club in 1921. Click to enlarge:

The house was sold to James Crawford Biggs in 1922. He and his wife Margie were "major figures in Raleigh society."1 They entertained many notables at Hardimont, such as Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevens, and William Jennings Bryan. Their house was known as a location for "elegant parties and dinners" that sometimes included "silver service for up to 500 people."2

Isaac Hunter's Tavern

Wait, you say, isn't this right around where Isaac Hunter's tavern was located? The meeting place that led to the creation of Raleigh and Wake County some two hundred years ago? Yes!

Hardimont was located on the same site. In fact, the house sat directly behind the old tavern. Hardimont was a stone structure with a huge semi-circular driveway framed with boxwoods. The yard was called the "grove" and was populated with three (?) trees named the Lafayette Oaks.3

The road bed of the old Stage Road was incorporated into the driveway. There were also "lovely formal gardens" behind the house. Here's an aerial view from 1965:


+ 0 - 1 | § Swift Creek's New Tanker

Lee Wilson yesterday photographed Swift Creek's new Tanker 2, a 2014 International/Rosenbauer 2500/200 500/2000. Was delivered on November 10. The old Tanker 2 was sold to Woodsale FD in Person County. See more photos. This was the third and last delivered in Wake County, following tankers for Fairview and Wake New Hope. See Lee's other albums for photos of those. 

Lee Wilson photos

+ 1 - 1 | § Two Alarms on Royal Anne Lane

Two alarms were struck today (only the second for the year?) at 725 Royal Anne Lane, at an apartment fire in north Raleigh. The fire department was dispatched at 2:18 p.m. Ladder 1 was first on scene, with heavy smoke and fire showing from the roof and third floor of a three-story, twelve-unit, wood-frame apartment building with 12,924 square-feet. Built 1994. They also had their own hydrant, in front of the structure. Rescue 1, Squad 15 (which laid in wet), and Engine 4 were next arriving.

Crews entered with a line and began searches as Ladder 1 and second due Ladder 3 prepared for aerial operations. (Building evacuation was already underway with maintenance alerting residents.) After about nine minutes, the last crews had exited the building and aerial operations started. (About 2:30 p.m.) One portable monitor and two hand lines were also used outside. A natural gas line was also burning on the side of the structure.

The Division Chief (Car 20) arrived and assumed command. He requested a second alarm, which was dispatched about 2:44 p.m. Staging was located on Six Forks Road. The majority of the fire was knocked down within, say, twenty minutes of aerial operations. The fire was contained to second and third floors, and with much of the roof burned off.

Extended extinguishment ensued, as well as the remaining primary searches. Due to the volume of water, the structure was deemed unsafe, and entry was minimized. Dispatched at 2:18 p.m. Controlled at 3:23 p.m. Raleigh police, Wake County Fire Services, and ATF assisted with investigation.

Cause was determined as accidental due to improperly smoking materials. Watch your butts! All twelve apartments were rendered uninhabitable. Twenty-four people were displaced plus numerous pets. Two dogs and one cat were resuscitated by Wake EMS.

First alarm: E4, Sq15, E9, E16, L1, L3, R1, B5, B1, A1, C20, C420, C401; Second alarm: E18, E19, E17, L2, L5, B3; Plus C14 (Safety Officer), C5; Medical EMS 3, EMS 5, EMS 6, EMS 11, EMS 38, M95, D4, T1. Coverage included E26 to Sta 18, L7 to Sta 16, E13 to Sta 15. Companies to remain on scene until 0800 hours the following morning, with relief companies rotated through the night

Alas, Legeros couldn't get there until after work. See his aftermath photos. Here are media links: WNCN, WRAL, WTVD, News & Observer.   

+ 2 - 0 | § Videos of Rescue 1 and Squad 14 Responding

Since acquiring one of those magic devices called a smart phone, Yours Truly has been shooting short video clips of fire and EMS vehicles responding to calls. Prety easy to make happen. Listen for companies or units that are either leaving a station that you're driving near, or will be responding along a route that you're also traveling on. Get there before they leave (or drive by) and voila. These get posted to Facebook as they happen. Have started uploading a few to YouTube as individual clips. See my video channel for a couple compilations of earlier ones.


Copyright 2012 by Michael J. Legeros