Knightdale Fire Department (1954-2003)



  • Part I - Research From 2004
  • Part II - Additional Notes in 2016

Part I - Research From 2004


1940, business section burns. Awakened by cries of her year-old son Zachary, Mrs. Davis Taylor smells smoke coming from the direction of Robertson Brother's General Store. She rouses the rest of her family. including her teenage brother, son of one of the proprietors. At about 2:40 a.m., he and his brother Wiley Robertson Jr. find the rear of the store fully involved. Trying and failing to extinguish the flames, they rush to wake the rest of the town. The bell at the Baptist Church also begins ringing, calling people out to help. Gene Harper, one of the first to arrive, places an urgent call to the Raleigh Fire Department. Townspeople formed a "bucket brigade," carrying water from a nearby well using every available pot, pan, bucket, or tub in town. Gutting the General Store, flames leap onto the homes of Claude Robertson and Wiley Robertson. Both houses burn to the ground, though nearly all of the furnishings are safely removed. Fire also spreads south, destroying E.D. Flowers's hot dog stand, a new store that Sam Watson has not yet opened, and the barbershop operated by Elias Straughn. Though the Raleigh Fire Department get stuck in mud on Smithfield Road and doesn't arrive until 4:30 a.m., several buildings are saved including the post office, a drug store, and a beauty salon. Mayor Damage initially estimated at approximately $60,000. (February 7, 1940) rt, no


1950's, town installs fire hydrants

1953, community members meet and form what will become the Knightdale Volunteer Fire Department (October 27, 1953)

1954, organized with 26 charter members. (August 1954)

1954, first Fire Chief is Randolph Griffith. (August 1954)

1954, first fire truck is 1 1/2 ton truck owned by town that firefighters equip with hose, ladders, extinguishers, etc. at a cost of $1500. (August 1954)

1954, first fire call: storage barn fire on Second Avenue

1954, incorporated as Knightdale Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. (October 27, 1954) sos

1955, first fire truck purchased: 1942 pumper from Navy surplus. Cost $1,250. Fire engine has 500 gallon tank, pumps 750 gallons per minute, and is equipped with 600 feet of 1 1/2" hose, 250" booster hose, and 10 feet of hard suction (May 1955)

1955, fire department joins Wake County Rural Fire Protection Program and begins soliciting for members in five-mile radius around town. Around 500 rural residents are contacted, but only 150 actually join. The membership fee is $5, which entitles rural residents to free fire protection. Non-members are charged $35 for each fire attended. (August 1955)

1956, telephone extension is installed at fire department. Firefighters man phone on rotating basis between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (May 3, 1956) fdr

1956, first fire station constructed, two-bay building at 401 Hester Street (Spring 1956)

1956, Fire Chief is Charlie Smithfdr

1957, department approves participation in County radio system. Initial equipment consists of base station and two mobiles (December 5, 1957)

1957, department chooses fire district name "Alert" (December 5, 1957)

1957, Fire Chief is Bernice Wallfdr

1958, first hand-held radio received (February 6, 1958)fdr

1958, Fire Chief is John B. Parrish wcfa

1959, apparatus purchase: 1958 (?) Ford / American LaFrance pumper. Cost $12,506.kfd, oh

1959, Fire Chief is E. O. Robinsonfdr

1959, department approves addition of two apparatus bays to north side of fire station.fdr


1960, man killed in house fire. (Sunday before January 28, 1960) glf28jan60

1960, fire department divided into two sections: Town and Rural (March 1960) fdr

1960, Fire Chief is E. O. Robinson (May 7, 1960) cfd

1961, Fire Chief is Bernice Wall, who serves until 1975fdr

1963, Norfolk Southern freight train derails and burns about two miles east of town. Two engineers are killed when train plunges into creek at 7 p.m. after wooden trestle is believed struck by lightning. Wendell Fire Department also responds. (July 1, 1963) rt26aug63

1963 (?), apparatus delivery: 1963 Chevrolet / Darley pumper, owned by Town glf27jun91

1967, construction started on recreation room above newest section of fire station. Estimated cost $1,850.fdr

1968, annual fire department barbeque held at Knightdale school cafeteria (October 11, 1968) glf

Raleigh Stockyards on US.64 just west of Knightdale destroyed by fire. Alarm is sounded at 10:15 p.m. $50,000 damage. New Hope Fire Department also responds, as well as tankers from Six Forks, Rolesville, and Raleigh. Fire takes 105 minutes to control (November 28, 1968) glf

1969, members participate in donkey basketball game with WKIX "men of music"fdr


1970, man dies in mobile home fire. Alarm is reported at 11:00 a.m. (Saturday before December 31, 1970) glf31dec70

1970, apparatus includes: oh

Rural Unit 1 1958 (?)  Ford / American LaFrance, later sold to fire department in Wilson Co
Rural Unit 2 ex-military "deuce and a half" tanker, later International Harvester tanker
Rural Unit 3 Ford / Atlas tanker
Rural Unit 4 Ford F-250 brush truck
Town Unit 1 1963 Chevrolet / Darley pumper

1971, fire department has 32 members with two pumpers, two tankers, and a "trash-and-woods-truck" and participates in the "county-wide fire department radio hook-up using a base unit and four mobile units" (April 1, 1971) wcbh

1971, members vote to begin accepting tax support from the Countyfdr

1975, Fire Chief is H.V. Pair.fdr

1976, Fire Chief is Bernice Wall, who serves until 1978.fdr

1976, Bethlehem Baptist Church on Poole Road burns. Dozens of church members and volunteer firefighters race into the burning building after the 82-year-old sanctuary is struck by lightning just before 7 p.m. They unscrew pews, cart off choir robes, and even drag out the organ and piano. Chairs, office equipment, and several air conditioning units are saved, as is a picture of Jesus recently donated by Madonna Jones. And just as firefighters step into the foyer on their last trip out, the roof collapses behind them. Units from Wendell, Garner, New Hope, and Raleigh also respond. Fire takes two hours to control. (August 4, 1976)

1976, wives of several firefighters organize Ladies Auxiliary (October 1976)

1978, Chief Wall dies. George Gupton becomes Fire Chief, serves until present day.fdr

1978, mobile home at Riverview Mobile Estates Park burns. (November 20, 1978) rt


1982, apparatus refurbished: 1964 Chevrolet / Darley pumper (October 1982)

1982, fire department answers 253 calls

1982, apparatus consists of: fdr 

Engine 1 1000 GPM, 750 gallons
Tanker 2 1500 gallons
Tanker 3 1450 gallons
Engine 4 brush truck, 240 gallons
Engine 5  750 GPM, 500 gallons
Truck 6 equipment unit, generator, lights, breathing apparatus, etc.
Engine 7 1000 GPM, 750 gallons

1983, chlorine leaks at Square D Company on Highway 64. Discovered about 9 p.m., the leak forces evacuation of 125 second-shift workers and sends seven people, including one firefighter, to Wake Medical Center, for treatment after inhalation of fumes. Leak originates in a ruptured line in pressurized cylinder near rear of plant. (August 31, 1983) no01sep83

1985, trash dump adjacent to Knightdale Estates Mobile Home Park on Hodge Road burns. Fire is reported at 1 p.m. and arriving firefighters discover several hundred tires ablaze. Mutual aid is requested from Wendell, Rolesville, New Hope, and Garner. About 50 to 60 firefighters are on scene at the height of the blaze that takes 75,000 gallons of water and $2,000 worth of foam to extinguish. Knightdale firefighters return to the scene at 5 a.m. the next day, to extinguish more fire. (June 4, 1985) rt05jun85

1985, construction begins on fire station additions of two open apparatus bays, a recreation room with two bathrooms, and a kitchen (September 1985)

1986, annual Fire Department barbeque held (April 18, 1986) glf

1986, fire truck runs off road while answering call during severe thunderstorm. Engine 7 is en route to call on Highway 64 when it runs off Smithfield Road at curve near Carrington Woods. One firefighter riding on the tailboard is slightly injured. Fire station is also flooded during storm, damaging a recently completed addition to the building (Saturday before July 3, 1986) glf03jul86

1986, Knightdale Elementary School cafeteria burns. Grease fire causes $15,000 damage. Fire Chief injured from smoke inhalation (Friday before September 4, 1986) glf04sep86

1987, Town begins contracting with fire department for fire protection (July 1, 1987) glf02dec93

1988, fire truck collides with passenger vehicle at intersection of US.64 and Marshburn Road. Person inside automobile injured. (May 1988) glf16may91

1989, private plane crashes near Raleigh East Airport. Three people are injured, one serious in 1:13 a.m. crash. Cessna 172N experiences alternator failure during flight but pilot elects to continue flying to destination. About 20 minutes from destination, aircraft loses all electrical power. While making night visual approach with passenger holding flashlight on instrument panel, pilot allows airplane to descend too low and collides with treetops. Pilot then attempts go-around even after, according to a pilot-rated passenger, the runway is made after collision. Aircraft doesn't climb during go-around and collides with trees and comes to rest. All passengers are conscious when rescuers arrive. (October 24, 1989) ntsb, rt24oct89

1989, apparatus delivery: 1990 Ford pumper, purchased by Town. Cost approximately $125,000 glf27jun91


1990, first paid firefighters hired (?). Two proposed to be hired for weekday staffing. (April 1990)no21mar90

1992, apparatus delivery: 1990 E-One pumper with 75 foot aerial ladder. Apparatus sold in subsequent year to Selma Fire Department. Replaced with new pumper (June-July, 1992) glf16jul92

1992, private plane crashes at Raleigh East Airport. Incident occurs about 2 p.m. when strong winds strike single-engine plane attempting landing. Pilot suffers minor scrapes but is not transported to hospital (Monday before April 14, 1992) no

1993, fire station fails fire inspection. Upstairs meeting room declared off-limits. Training and other activities held in apparatus bay. Estimated cost of bringing building to code: $55,000 (February 1993) glf11mar93

1993, Board of Directors votes unanimously to purchase 2.2 acre lot on Bethlehem Road, just south of railroad tracks as location for replacement fire station. Cost $70,000. Fire Chief proposes 13,000-square foot facility at estimated cost of $520,000 (Thursday before March 11, 1993) glf11mar93

1993, Town planners conclude that proposed fire station site on Bethlehem Road will likely not meet needs of Town over long term, due to growth such as a planned annexation of the town's western extraterritorial rustication that will push the Town limits to the Neuse River (June 1993) glf11mar93

1993, Town renews contract with fire department but does not include money for new fire station. Board of Directors agree to postpone for 12 months any development of the 2.2 acre lot purchased on Bethlehem Road. Meanwhile, the County will conduct a survey of the fire district to determine where a new fire station should be built. (July 1993) glf11mar93

1993, apparatus delivery: new pumper (August 4, 1992) glf16jul92

1993, Town Council public safety committee releases report describing continuing struggle between Town and fire department over money and accountability. Report suggests three options for Town Council: start its own fire department, contract with a third party for fire protection, or maintain relationship with present fire department. The report states that the least expensive option for the Town is to continue contracting with the present fire department. (November 30, 1993) glf02dec93

1993, fire truck collides with passenger vehicle on Old Horton Road during ice storm, after swerving to avoid a skidding vehicle that crosses the center line. No one is injured. The 1990 Ford pumper sustains only $1.23 in damages-- an air-valve plug. The accident occurs shortly after 8 a.m., which unit is responding to vehicle accident (December 29, 1993) glf06jan94

1994, fire department issues response to Town Council public safety report of November 30 in special meeting. Firefighters find faults with report, but also offer compromises including allowing non-fire department members to serve on the Board of Directors. Other changes to negotiate: making the Fire Chief and daytime personnel either Town or County employees; prohibiting paid employees from serving on the Board of Directors; the Town giving the title to its fire engine to the fire department; the Town or County assuming bookkeeping or other administrative duties; the signing of "open-ended" contracts between the two groups; the Town providing "equal" funding for its citizens as the County does for rural residents. Both parties agree to choose three representatives to negotiate a compromise to be presented to both groups as a whole, probably in March (January 13, 1994) glf13jan94

1994, helicopter crashes near Raleigh East airport. One person killed. Flight is delayed because of fog layer at airport and, according to witnesses, departs with incident. One minute into flight, pilot is heard saying "Hey! I've got a..." No other radio transmissions are heard. Witness near accident site observes helicopter fishtail and hears sputtering sound coming from it. Radar data depicts helicopter at 700 feet MSL, flying in easterly direction, then reversing course to a westerly heading within 23 seconds of coverage. Main fuselage impacts ground in a wooded area. Other debris from helicopter is scattered over area 800 feet long and 100 feet wide. Post-impact fire further damages airframe. Examination of separated tailcone and fuselage components show evidence of in-flight main rotor blade contact. Wreckage examination also slows sign of mast bumping. (September 28, 1994) ntsb

1994, fire department files lawsuit against Town, in attempt to collect up to $28,389 in excess tax revenues that the town collected and should have given to the fire department since 1987. The Town Council has offered to pay up to $7,500 to settle claim. (Friday before November 3, 1994) glf03nov94

1995, County Board of Commissioners agrees to expand Alert Fire District to include Shotwell and other property along the Johnson County line. Fire Department subsequently seeks permission to build satellite fire station to protect same (February 1995) glf23feb95

1995, County Board of Commissioners approves construction of satellite fire station near Poole Road. Public hearing draws only support, including petition with 424 signatures favoring a fire station. The expansion of the fire district is expected to generate more than $200,000 a year in revenues. The building is expected to cost about $500,000. Upon completion, the fire departments administrative offices will be moved there along with two of four full-time firefighters. (Monday before March 16, 1995) glf16mar95

1995, Town agrees to settle lawsuit filed by fire department last year. Town Council votes to pay fire department $7,210 with a second payment for the same amount in July, as part of the proposed 1995-96 town budget. The lawsuit contended that the Town collected excess tax revenues over a seven-year period but did not adjust the fire department's payments (May 1995)

1995, Fire Station #2 completed at 4828 Clifton Road

1996, Massey's Butcher Block at 107 S. First Ave. burns. Afternoon fire takes about 90 minutes to contain. Damage estimated at $200,000 to $250,000 (Monday before May 28, 1996)


2002, Town ceases contracted fire protection with Knightdale Fire Department (June 30, 2002)

2003, Fire department renamed Eastern Wake Fire-Rescue. (April 14, 2003)

Fire Chiefs


First Middle Last Start Stop Years Notes
Randolph   Griffith 1954 1955 1 First fire chief
Charles   Smith 1956 1956 1  
Bernice   Wall 1957 1958 1 Total 17 years as KFD chief
John B. Parrish 1958 1959 1  
E. O. Robison 1959 1961 2  
Bernice   Wall 1961 1975 14  
H. V. Pair 1975 1976 1  
Bernice   Wall 1976 1978 2  
George   Gupton 1978 2003 25 Last fire chief. KFD renamed EWFD.
Plus 9 years at EWFD.


Fire Chiefs

See Wake County Fire Chiefs (pdf).


See Wake County apparatus register (pdf).


Raleigh Fire Museum photo albums.


  • cfd Cary Fire Department records
  • dah NC Department of Archives and History
  • fdr Fire department records
  • glf Gold Leaf Farmer
  • no News and Observer
  • oh Oral history
  • rt Raleigh Times
  • sos NC Department of the Secretary of State
  • wcbh Wake County Bicentennial Town history
  • wcfa Wake County Firemen's Association records

Last updated: November 30, 2016

Part II - Additional Notes - 2016

1960 - When the department was split into town and rural sections, the division existed "on paper." All firemen responded on all calls as members for both town and rural responses. They continued to share the same equipment and facility. The town owned one of the pumpers, though it could be used anywhere as needed, and without restrictions. Rural apparatus also responded in town and with no restrictions. Recall veteran members, they did try to leave a Class A pumper in service in the town limits at all times, for back-up calls and responding wherever when needed.


Copyright 2016 by Michael J. Legeros