Fairgrounds Fire Department (1961-1998)



  • Part I - Research from 2004
  • Part II - More History
  • Links and Sources
  • Family Tree - JPG | PDF

Part I - Research from 2004


1957, Western Boulevard Fire Department formed. See timeline


1961, organized after Western Boulevard Fire Department dissolves. Incorporated as Fairgrounds Rural Fire Department, Inc. (February 24, 1961) sos

1961, first Fire Chief is B. J. Abbott. First Assistant Chief is Dale Graham ar92

1961, fire station constructed at 1515 Blue Ridge Road. The one-story block building has two bays facing Blue Ridge Road.

1962, first apparatus includes 1957 (?) Chevy/American pumper originally utilized by Western Boulevard, and 1959 International Harvester tanker, 2700 gallons

1962, three rows of display booths at Fairgrounds destroyed by fire. Worker at Red Star Oil Company spots blaze in exhibition building. Firefighters, including two Raleigh units, bring blaze under control in less than 20 minutes. (September 22, 1962) no23sep62

1963, Camp Polk mattress plant and woodwork warehouse destroyed by fire. Fire is discovered about 3 p.m. at warehouse. Winds fan flames and spread to nearby mattress factory. Total damage is about $58,000. Two fire companies from Raleigh assist. (November 14, 1963) rt15nov63, no15nov63

1964, portable restaurant at Fairgrounds destroyed by fire. Located between Dorton Arena and the Red Cross Lounge, the 50 by 100 foot eatery catches fire with around 6:20 p.m. Between 70 and 150 people are in the restaurant when the fire starts. First fire truck arrives at 6:32 p.m. Raleigh, Cary, and Apex respond as mutual aid. Fame of building collapses at 6:45 p.m. Damage is estimated at $100,000. Fire is watched by thousands of spectators. (October 13, 1964) no14oct64, rt14oct64

1965, Camp Polk woodworking shop suffers explosion and fire. One corner of the building is heavily damaged by 8:15 a.m. explosion. Fire is confined to one room. Raleigh Fire Department also responds with one unit from Station 5. (September 23, 1965) rt23sep65

1965, concession stands at State Fairgrounds burn. The 4 a.m. fire alarm sweeps through 315-stretch of stands. Public address system tower also gutted. Damage to stands is about $25,000. Three units and 22 volunteer firefighters battle blaze. Raleigh Fire Department also responds with five men and a pumper. (September 29, 1965) rt29sep65

1967 (?), apparatus delivery: 1967 tanker, 1500 gallons. wcfar

1968-69, fire station catches fire. Overflowing oil heater starts fire that doesn't combust. Interior is singed. Lenses on fire trucks are melted and paint is cracked. Discovered by passing firefighter. Interior is subsequently renovated. oh

1969, Wayside Furniture Company destroyed by fire. One firefighter is injured when a "burned out wall" falls on him during the 3 p.m. fire at 5425 Hillsborough Street Extension. B. J. Abbott, the Fairgrounds Fire Chief, is treated at Wake Memorial Hospital for "a leg broken in two places, cuts on his hands and first and second degree burns over his entire body" reports the March 29 edition of the News and Observer. Abbott was "hosing water on the burning building when the roof collapsed, knocking over a concrete block wall on him and showering him with burning debris from the roof." Four rural departments respond: Fairgrounds, Durham Highway, Yrac, and Swift Creek, as well as "units from the Raleigh Fire Department." The fire was "brought under control within about one hour." (March 28 1969)


1971, Assistant Chief Norwood C. "Dick" Massengill, 57, dies on duty, after suffering heart attack while operating apparatus. Fire engine is wrecked beyond repair on Grand Avenue while returning from false alarm and collides with trees in residential yard. Accident occurs around 2:23 p.m. He is found dead upon arrival of the Raleigh Fire Department rescue squad. Funeral services are held on February 12, at Apex Funeral Home and burial at Montlawn Memorial Park in Raleigh. Massengill, a mechanic, was a charter member of FFD. (February 10, 1971) oh, rfd

1974 (?), apparatus deliveries: wcfar

  • 1974 Chevrolet / American LaFrance pumper, 750 GPM, 750 gallons
  • 1974 Dodge equipment van, with "quick mount air packs, generators, and lights."

1975, annual meeting held at 8:00 p.m. at the fire station. (April 17, 1975) fdr

1975 (?), apparatus delivery: 1975 mini-pumper. wcfar

mid-1970s, station improvements:

  • day room added in rear of building. Firefighters construct same over a series of Monday night meetings.
  • two additional apparatus bays. Female workers through government work program complete same. Fire department pays only cost of materials. Completion takes about a year. oh


1985, Tanker 197 overturns on Blue Ridge Road near the entrance to the art museum. The Chevrolet/Atlas tanker swerved to avoid a car that had made a u-turn, and hit a curb and overturned. The driver of the fire truck, Richard "Will" Ernest, was treated at Rex Hospital and released. (November 11, 1985)no

1985 (?), apparatus deliveries:

  • 1985 Kenworth/Grumman Firecat pumper/tanker, 1250 GPM, 2500 gallons. Placed in service as Engine 196/
  • 1985 Ford/Grumman Firecat tanker, 350 GPM, 1500 gallons. Placed in service as Tanker 198/

1987, furniture store on Bashford Road burns. Numerous fire departments respond. (January 1987) oh


1992, fire department moves into new station at 4120 District Drive. Building has 6,536 square-feet with six bays, sleeping quarters, and other rooms. (April 25, 1992) ar92

1992, Fire Chief is Percy Evans/ (April 25, 1992) ar92

1998, fire department merges with Yrac Fire Department, forming Western Wake Fire Department. (July 1, 1998)

Part II - More History

Fairgrounds Fire Department Articles of Incorporation

January 19, 2013 - Source

Here's a scan of a photocopy of the articles incorporation of the Fairgrounds Fire Department, which operated from 1961 to 1998. The scan is from a photocopy requested from the Secretary of State in August 1992. The articles were signed February 23, 1961. What's interesting is that articles name the department Fairgrounds, plural, but their trucks bore the name Fairground, singular, for years. Read the FFD history, or read the articles of incorporation (PDF). The incorporators were:

  • James H. Walker
  • F. D. Graham
  • H. G. Finch
  • J. Wilbur Doyle
  • Kidd Brewer

The first board of directors were:

  • J. E. Tyson
  • Ira O. Schaub Jr.
  • B. J. Abbott
  • James H. Walker
  • J. M. Adams
  • F. D. Graham
  • H. G. Finch
  • J. Wilbur Doyle
  • Wade E. Griffin
  • Kidd Brewer
  • V. A. Mason
  • N. R. Morgan
Many or maybe all of these were members of the Western Boulevard Fire Department, which operated from 1957 to 1960. Read the WBFD history.

Links and Sources

Fire Chiefs

See Wake County Fire Chiefs (pdf).


See Wake County apparatus register (pdf).


Raleigh Fire Museum photo albums.


  • ar92 Fairgrounds Fire Department Annual Report 1992
  • cfd Cary Fire Department records
  • dah NC Department of Archives and History
  • fdr Fire department records
  • oh Oral history
  • rt Raleigh Times
  • sos NC Department of the Secretary of State
  • wcfa Wake County Firemen's Association records

Last updated: September 27, 2016


Copyright 2016 by Michael J. Legeros