From August 2011 – Wake County Fire Service Leadership Overview / FAQ

This was originally posted to the old blog in August 2011 and is being reprinted here, for easier of newer readers to find. 

As a public service to our readers, Mike Legeros, A. C. Rich, and Lee Price present an overview of fire service leadership in Wake County. The information is delivered in the format of an FAQ. First, though, let’s identify the speakers. Mike Legeros is the historian, author, and photographer who runs this blog. A. C. Rich is Fire Chief of the Stony Hill Fire Department, in addition to a career firefighter in Raleigh. Lee Price is Asst. Chief of the Wake-New Hope Fire Department, in addition to a career firefighter in Rolesville. Below is their best attempt to explain the many heads of the hydra that we call “local fire service leadership.” We’ll start with the fire commission, and work our way outward.

Q: What is the Wake County Fire Commission?

A: It is a group of people appointed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners, and empowered as a group to make recommendations to the County Commissioners, about aspects of the fire service within the control of the county. This web site lists the expected duties of the Fire Commission:

Q: Who are the members of the Fire Commission?

A: Conceptually, they consist of: One County Commissioner. Four primary regional representatives of the county-funded fire departments: one for north region, one for south region, etc. Four alternate regional representatives, for above. The president of the Wake County Firefighter’s Association. One representative from the town of Wendell. Five citizens, also called “consumers.” The specific members are listed on a web site ( However, that page is out of date at this time.

Q: How can you get appointed to the Fire Commission? Continue reading ‘From August 2011 – Wake County Fire Service Leadership Overview / FAQ’ »

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Visual History of Raleigh Aerial Apparatus

Updated November 24, 2023 – Added picture of new Ladder 22 plus all service ladder trucks of yore.

Presenting a new infographic, this time with a visual history of Raleigh Fire Department aerial apparatus, sorted by manufacturer. And, in the case of Pierce, further sorted by apparatus type. 

View JPG version.

Very PDF version.

See more charts and infographics


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History Mystery – North Carolina State Fire Marshal

This is a blog version of a Facebook posting originally posted November 4, 2023.

Time for a history mystery. When did the role of the state fire marshal merge into the position of the commissioner of insurance? Have seen some conflicting references. Let’s dig a bit.

The position of state fire marshal was created in 1914[1], with the hiring of Raleigh Fire Chief Sherwood Brockwell as Deputy Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal. He the held the role for 39 years, until his death at age 67 in 1953.[2]

Reported the News & Observer a month after his passing, Insurance Commissioner Waldo Cheek planned to take his time naming a new state fire marshal. In the meantime, three deputy fire marshals–Everett B. Jones, Kenneth Dixon, and Kern E. Church –would split the duties. Then what happened?

No new state fire marshal was ever appointed, it appears. And somewhere between the mid-1950s and mid-1980s, the role of state fire marshal was folded into the position of the commissioner of insurance.

When know what happened in 1953, after Brockwell’s death. And we haven’t yet found a citation prior to 1985.

That’s when Section 66 of Chapter 666 [!] of SB 738, An Act to Improve the Regulation of Insurance by Making Technical Improvements and Other Needed Changes, included this language: “As used in this Article and elsewhere in the General Statutes, ‘State Fire Marshal’ means the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of North Carolina.”

Thus, we know the state fire marshal position was merged into the commissioner’s position by 1985. But how much earlier? Good question.

Still searching for citations, in legislation or other historical records. Maybe it was indeed codified in law. Maybe it was an unofficial evolution.

Meanwhile, will keep looking.

History Chart

(new learning aid, work in progress)


Research Notes

Read Mike’s research notes on the history of OSFM at


[1] Was the position of state fire marshal created by legislative act? Doesn’t appear so. Searching the session laws from 1913 forward, via the interface at, the first appearance of the phrase “state fire marshal” doesn’t appear until decades later.

[2] Read his obituary at

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Remembering the Radio Patrols of Western North Carolina

This is a blog version of a Facebook posting originally posted November 1, 2023.

In the early 1970s, “radio patrol” units were operating in such western North Carolina counties as McDowell, Mitchell, and Yancey. These were volunteer organizations whose members were each equipped with two-way citizen band (CB) radios, and one or more people monitoring those radios 24/7. These units were part of a larger group organization named the North Carolina Radio Patrol and Emergency Service.

The mission of these units was described in the Yancey Record on August 19, 1971, as “sworn to observe and report crimes, fires, vandalism, accidents, robberies, burglaries, and anything suspicious or unusual; to report all deliberate traffic violators, to assist deserving motorists who are broken down, out of gas or in need of assistance.” And to also “help the police, highway patrol and all law enforcement agencies; the fire department; local county, state civil defense, and federal agencies whenever their services are needed.”

Old issues of the Yancey Record via DigitalNC recount such unit activities as:

  • assisting CAP members searching for a downed plane in Buncombe County in May 1972
  • sponsoring a blood drive in Burnsville for the American Red Cross in October 1975
  • helping to evacuate stranded residents in Mitchell County after the great flood of November 1977, which resulted in washed out bridges and roadways, left hundreds of people homeless, killed eleven people, and caused property damage in the millions of dollars.

Readers, take over with memories or histories in comments. 

Specific Agencies

Among the specific radio patrol organizations were:

Mitchell County Radio Patrol

  • Incorporated with the state in April 1974 as Mitchell Rescue Squad Inc.
  • Later renamed Mitchell Radio Patrol and Rescue Squad, Inc.
  • Later renamed Mitchell Radio Patrol and Emergency Services, Inc.
  • Later renamed Mitchell Radio Patrol, Emergency Services & First Responders, Inc.
  • Based in Spruce Pine, at least in later decades.

Radio Patrol Emergency Service and Community Watch

  • Incorporated with the state in December 1967
  • Renamed Radio Patrol Emergency Search and Rescue Service
  • Corporate office in Burnsville.

North Carolina Radio Patrol

What’s the origin of NCRP? From the Asheville Times on March 7, 1973, the non-profit organization was founded in 1967 and was composed of over 200 members in six counties, that assisted “in such emergencies as fires, wrecks, searches, drownings, and plane crashes.”

There was apparently also an earlier iteration of the NCRP, as the group was mentioned on page 41 of the March 1939 issue of QST magazine, for amateur radio operators. See the archived issue.

What became of the NCRP? It apparently evolved into a regional participant of REACT, a national group with a similar mission.


Selected sources include:

Yancey Journal, November 1977, issues about the great flood: November 10, November 17.

November Rain: Remembering the Flood of 1977, Mitchell County Historical Society, web page.

Photo Information

Vintage license plate – Photo from eBay, from a closed listing.

Mitchell County Radio Patrol – Building and converted ambulance in Spruce Pine, photographed by Mike Legeros in October 2010.

Marion Radio Patrol, circa 1960 – Courtesy McDowell County Public Libraries. Shown left to right are Dollie Collins, Hollie Hollifield, Odell Hyatt, Nolan Lawing, L.G. Collins, and Clifford Epley. Names from the 2013 book Marion by Kim Clark, The McDowell House Project Advisory Committee, published 2013 by Arcadia Publishing.

More Photos

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Wake County Fire Commission Meeting – October 12, 2023

The Wake County Fire Commission will hold a regular meeting on Thursday, October 12, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., at the Wake County Emergency Services Education Center, 221 S. Rogers Lane, Raleigh, NC 27610.

View agenda and meeting documents.

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Mutual Aid to Greensboro, 1936

This is a blog version of an earlier Facebook posting.

Mutual aid to Greensboro, April 1936. From a reader, after a tornado struck the Gate City on April 2, 1936, neighboring fire departments responding to render aid, including Asheboro, Burlington, Graham, High Point, Reidsville, and Winston-Salem. State Fire Marshal Sherwood Brockwell also responded, to help the Greensboro Fire Chief and other officials.

The F4 tornado was part of an outbreak that struck the southeastern US. The twister struck Greensboro in the evening, leaving a long path of damage across the south side of the city. It killed 14 deaths and 144 injuries and left $2M in damage. It was the second-deadliest tornado in the state’s history.

Shown is the April 3, 1936, edition of the Greensboro Record.

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Twenty Years Ago

This is a blog version of an earlier Facebook posting.

Found in my files. Twenty years ago last month, a burgeoning fire historian (and future blogger) was feeling his way around this thing called the Wake County Fire Commission.

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Wake County Fire Service Governance Timeline

This is a blog version of an earlier Facebook posting.

New chart, high-level history of fire service governance in Wake County.

Source are these lengthy research notes (PDF).

See also this history chart of all Wake County fire departments.

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Firehouse Expo South in Charlotte

This is a blog version of an earlier Facebook posting.

We recently received and digitized a pair of program books from the Great American Firehouse Exposition and Muster South, held in Charlotte in May 1988 and May 1989. Both are fabulous snapshots of the late eighties fire service. They were gifted by a fellow history fan, attending the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo in Raleigh this month.

Read digital versions.

See parade photos by Sid Bragg, from the 1988 event. 

Sunday Events

On May 2, 1988, the Charlotte Observer printed a schedule of the events on Sunday, the last day of the expo. It noted that more than 3000 firefighters from eleven southern states were expected to attend. The event was sponsored by Firehouse Communications Inc., publishers of Firehouse Magazine and Chief Fire Executive.

These events on Sunday, May 8, were open to the public:

  • Flea market from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the parking lot beside Adam Mark hotel, admission was $3 per person or $5 per family
  • Parade at 12:15 p.m. that featured equipment old and new, including an 1895 horse-drawn steamer. The route started at the County Services Building at the corner of North Tryon and 11st Streets, proceeded south to Trade, east to Brevard, south Second, and east to McDowell.
  • Muster activities at 2:30 p.m. on Second Street in front of the Education Center, with competitions between teams of firefighters in four timed tests. Trophies were awarded to the winning teams and a $300 prize was awarded to the overall top team. 

Then What Happened?

It appears that “Firehouse South” was held in Charlotte for only those two years.  

Clippings From 1988


Clippings From 1989

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Wake County Fire Commission Meeting – July 13, 2023

The Wake County Fire Commission will hold a regular meeting on Thursday, July 13, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., at the Wake County Emergency Services Education Center, 221 S. Rogers Lane, Raleigh, NC 27610. 

View agenda and meeting documents.

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