Civil Defense Directors of Raleigh and Wake County

How about a dip into Raleigh-Wake civil defense history? Reader Scott Womack acquired a Raleigh Civil Defense Director badge and asks, who would’ve worn this? Let’s try to answer the question via some News & Observer articles and other sources.

Pre-History – During World War II there were numerous civilian defense initiatives both in Raleigh and around North Carolina. They ranged from blackout drills to volunteer squads of auxiliary firemen and auxiliary policemen.

1950, Sep – Hugh G. Isley was named Civil Defense Director for Raleigh. Volunteer position, it appears. Was there an earlier director? Doesn’t appear so. Was there an earlier city office of civilian defense, during the war? TBD.

1952, Feb – Sheriff Robert Pleasants was appointed county CD director. He appears to have been be the first county director. Source: County minutes.

1952, Sep – Raymond Snow succeeded Isley as CD director for Raleigh. Volunteer position, it appears.

1954, Feb – Col. David Hardee was named Civil Defense coordinator for Wake County. Was the first full-time role for the position in the county. This was a joint city-county role and office. The CD director position in Raleigh was presumably discontinued. The only other paid CD director in the state at the time was in Charlotte.

1956, Jan – CD directors were named in Cary, Wendell, and Knightdale. Previously announced were CD directors in Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest, and Zebulon.

1961, May – Col. John Thorne succeeded Hardee as Wake County Director of Civil Defense. He previously held the position of Raleigh and Wake County Training Officer for Civil Defense. He was appointed after Hardee’s retirement.

1972, July – The county civil defense department was referenced as the Raleigh-Wake County Civil Defense Agency in a news story.

1973, Jun – Russell Capps succeeded Thorne as Wake County Director of Civil Defense. The office was also called Raleigh/Wake Civil Preparedness, as named in the 1973 budget document.

By July 1, 1976, the office was called Raleigh/Wake County Emergency Preparedness.

By July 1981, the office was called Wake County Emergency Management.

In 1976, the director’s role was expanded to include leading the newly created Wake County EMS. In/around that time, or within a few years, the director’s role was further expanded to include the role of county fire marshal.

Will update this posting as more information is found.

Source Documents

Available in this Google Drive folder. 

Read More

“Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow: The North Carolina Civil Defense Agency and Fallout Shelters, 1961-1963,” by Frank Arthur Blazich, Jr. – College thesis  

Auxiliary Firemen handbook from 1940s (PDF)

History of Wake County fire service governance (PDF)

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Wake County Rescue Squad History – Drownings

This is a version of a Facebook posting from February 2021. It has been expanded with additional data. Last updated, June 10, 2024.


This blog post presents research notes from newspaper stories about Wake County rescue squad responses to drownings in ponds, lakes, or creeks in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Drownings were a common call type for the early squads, that included Raleigh (1953), Wake Forest (1952), and Wendell (1962). Boats, motors, oars, hooks, et al were among their early equipment. (Recall that patient transport services were performed by funeral homes at that time. Community rescue squads–along with private ambulance services and, later, Wake County EMS–evolved to fill that role.)

In fact, the Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad was organized partially in response to a body recovery after a drowning on the Neuse River. The city manager requested help from the fire chief, after receiving multiple complaints about the body of a drowning victim that had not been recovered.

Read research notes (PDF).

Read about Wake County rescue squad histories.

See source documents (plus additional news articles) in this Google Drive folder

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Rolesville Fire Department Signs Unification Resolution with Town

On Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the leaders of the Town of Rolesville and the non-profit corporation Rolesville Rural Fire Department signed a unification resolution, to begin the formal process of merging the fire department with the town.

During the past three years, both had been meeting collaboratively to discuss the benefits, concerns, challenges, and opportunities of a merger. They created a Unification Committee comprised of town staff, fire department members, and a third-party consultant, NC Fire Chief Consulting. Together they drafted the unification resolution. 

The resolution was adopted by the town board on May 21, 2024. It’s an informal document that commits to the effort of unification, and subsequently initiates the establishment of a formal, legalistic definitive agreement to solidify the unification of the fire department and the town by the proposed target date of July 1, 2025.

Rolesville Rural Fire Department Inc. was organized in June 1958. The first fire chief was H. E. Perry and the first fire station was a bay in the Rolesville Amoco Station on South Main Street. Their first fire truck was a 1958 Chevrolet/American pumper and it is still on the department’s roster. 

Last year, the fire department celebrated their 65th anniversary. 

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Raleigh Fire Department History – Charts and Data

Updated on June 5, 2024, with added chart comparing historical data on operations expansion. Updated on April 21, 2024, with added chart showing recruit class length. Updated on February 24, 2023, with additional charts showing fire station growth. Updated on January 11, 2023, with additional charts: extra-alarm fires and recruit graduating class sizes. 

Random data play about the Raleigh Fire Department. These charts originally appeared as postings on Legeros Fire Line on Facebook. They were created using Excel.


  • Operations Expansion – 1995 to 2024
  • Growth Trends – Number of Stations
  • Extra-Alarm Fires
  • Counts of Companies
  • Population Growth vs. Response Growth
  • Most Popular Month for Opening New Fire Stations
  • Recruit Academy Starting Sizes
  • Recruit Academy Graduating Class Sizes
  • Recruit Academy Length

Operations Expansion – 1955 to 2024

Continue reading ‘Raleigh Fire Department History – Charts and Data’ »

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Remembering Bob Bartosz

This was originally posted on Facebook.

June 5, 2024, update. Arrangements for have been posted. Farewell will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 8, in Nashville, with an emergency services escort to begin the journey back to New Jersey. Burial services with fire department honors will be held at Monday in Cinnaminson, NJ. See obituary for details.

We’ve learned that veteran fire photographer Bob Bartosz passed away this week. He had made Nash County his home since 2009, relocating from the Camden-Philly area, where he had shot fires for decades. Obituary and arrangements are forthcoming.

Bob started as the official photographer for Camden County, NJ, in 1954, and was appointed Camden city’s official fire photographer in 1964. He was also an honorary CFD Battalion Chief. He was active in the Camden-Philly area for many decades. His photos were featured as Fire Engineering covers a number of times during those decades.

By trade he was a photographer for the Camden Courier-Post newspaper, where he worked from 1959 until he retired in 1982. He also served as a Pennsauken Township volunteer firefighter and a Delaware River Port Authority police officer in the 1960s.

Bob shot news and sports photos for the newspaper. He later worked for Fleer, taking pictures for baseball trading cards. He also won awards for both his news and fire photos, such a November 1969 photo of a Moratorium March in Washington D.C. that won four first-place awards at the city, state, and national level.

He retired from his official fire photographer roles in 2009, and he and his wife Pat relocated to Nash County, NC. He was soon taking pictures here, and was made official photographer for Rocky Mount and other area departments. He also submitted pictures and stories to,, and other outlets.

Over the decades, Bob published two books of his work, “Black and White and Red All Over” (1971) and “Tin Helmets, Iron Men: Philadelphia Fires in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s” (2001). In 2016, he co-authored “Nash County Heroes 24/7” with Todd Joyner.

In November 2018, Bob received a Distinguished Service Award from Rocky Mount FD, for his outstanding field photography and event documentation for the department.
See comments for some news profiles of Bob, from back in the day.

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Oldest Rescue Squads in North Carolina + Master List

Posting updated May 30, 2024, with banner graphic added. Database is also periodically updated with corrections. 

Research notes on the oldest rescue squads in North Carolina. Originally compiled in September 2022 in this Facebook posting.

Source data in this Google spreadsheet copied from Excel master file.

Name County Status Start Stop
Winston-Salem Rescue Squad, Inc. Forsyth former 1937 2014
Davidson County Rescue Squad, Inc. Davidson active 1941 ——
Elkin Emergency Rescue Squad, Inc. Surry active 1941 ——
Beaufort Rescue Squad (v1) Carteret former 1942 TBD
Gaston Life Saving and First Aid Crew Gaston former 1948 2021
ADR [?] Rescue Squad Columbus former 1950 1963?
Red Cross Rescue Squad Moore former 1950 TBD
Rowan County Rescue Squad, Inc. Rowan active 1951 ——
Mooresville Rescue Squad Iredell former 1952 2015
Pink Hill Rescue Squad Lenoir/Duplin former 1952 2004
Wake Forest Rescue Squad (v1) Wake former 1952 late 1950s?
Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad, Inc., The Wake former 1953 1960s
Goldsboro Rescue Squad, Inc. / Goldsboro Rescue & EMS Inc. (1989) Wayne former 1953 TBD
Vance Life Saving and Rescue Squad, Inc., The / Vance County Rescue Squad Vance active 1953 ——
Mount Holly Lifesaving Crew, Inc. / Mount Holly Life Saving and First Aid Crew, Inc. Mecklenburg former 1954 2001
Graham Rescue Unit, Inc. (renamed Alamance Co. Rescue in 1972) Graham former 1955 1972
Wilkes Rescue Squad, Inc. Wilkes active 1955 ——
Lovelady Rescue Squad, Inc. Caldwell former 1956 2017
Roanoke Valley Rescue Squad, Inc., The Halifax active 1956 ——
Pembroke Rescue Squad, Inc. Robeson active 1956 ——
Robeson County Rescue Squad (renamed Lumberton RS) Robeson active 1956 ——
Alexander Rescue Squad, Inc. / Alexander Rescue Squad and EMS (1990) Alexander active 1957 ——
Chatham County Rescue Squad of Siler City, Inc. Chatham active 1957 ——
Hendersonville VFW Rescue Squad / Hendersonville Rescue Squad, Inc. (renamed Henderson County RS) Henderson former 1957 1972
Johnston County Civil Defense Rescue Squad (renamed Smithfield RS) Johnston former 1957 1981?
Lincoln County Life Saving and First Aid Crew, Inc., The Lincoln former 1957 2014
Madison-Rockingham Rescue Squad, Inc. Rockingham active 1957 ——
Anson Rescue Squad, Inc. Anson active 1958 ——
Claremont Rescue Squad, Inc. Catawba active 1958 ——
Kings Mountain Rescue / Kings Mountain Emergency Services, Inc. (1977?) / Kings Mountain Emergency Rescue Services, Inc. (1979) Cleveland former 1958 2022
Ahoskie Rescue Squad, Inc. Hertford former 1958 2011, by
Raeford Rescue Squad Hoke former 1958 TBD
Kenly Rescue Squad Johnston former 1958 TBD
Macon Search and Rescue Squadron, Inc. / Macon Search and Rescue Squad, Inc. (1969) Macon active 1958 ——
Shelby Life Saving and Rescue Unit, Inc. / Shelby Rescue Squad, Inc (1993) Cleveland former 1959 2022
Trenton Emergency Rescue Squad, Inc. / Trenton EMS, Inc. (2005) Jones active 1959 ——
McDowell County Rescue Squad, Inc. / McDowell County Rescue Squad & Ambulance, Inc. (1990) McDowell active 1959 ——
North Mecklenburg Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc. Mecklenburg former 1959 2017
Morehead City Rescue Squad Carteret former 1960 2000
Grover Rescue Squad, Inc. Cleveland former 1960 2012/13
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Relocating Fire Station 1 – Site Selected, Project Restarted

This is an ongoing blog posting about relocating Raleigh Fire Station 1. See also the  official project site


  • February 2024 – Site Selected, Project Restarted
  • May 2020 – Project on Hold
  • November 2019 – Conceptual Rendering
  • July 2018 – Project Update
  • August 2017 – Project Update
  • May 2016 – Funding for Station Relocation
  • August 2015 – Station Relocation Objective

February 2024 – Site Selected, Project Restarted

On February 29, 2024, an RFQ was issued for design services. By that time, the project had also been restarted, with the scope of work expanded to include a back-up emergency communications center in the new facility. The project budget had also been increased to $72M. The site location was also changed, and was originally planned for a city-owned parcel near the Raleigh Convention Center. 

The multi-story facility is planned to include 50,000 square-feet and five apparatus bays. The site is a city-owned, two-acre parent on the northwest corner of South Salisbury Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. The site is also catty corner from old Fire Station 2, which was located in the rear of the performing arts center originally named Memorial Auditorium.  

Fire Station 1 is currently located at 220 S. Dawson Street and opened in 1953. It has two stories, three bays, and 11,200 square-feet. Its two prior locations were 412 S. Salisbury Street at Old Station 2 (1941-53) (built 1914) and the original Headquarters Fire Station at 112 Morgan Street (1912-41). The latter was erected in 1896, for the city’s volunteer fire companies. It opened as Station 1 in 1912, with the creation of the current career organization. 

Headquarters is currently located in the Dillon Building at 310 W. Martin Street. It comprises the Office of the Fire Chief, Office of the Fire Marshal, Office of Safety and Compliance, administrative staff of the Operations Division, and other staff.

The Martin Street space was occupied in 1994. Prior locations for fire administrative offices have included:

  • Municipal Building at 222 W. Hargett Street (1984-91)
  • Professional Building at 127 W. Hargett Street (1991-94)
  • Keeter Training Center (1982-20__)
  • Old Station 4 at 2913 Wake Forest Road (1993-97?)
  • Fire Station 1 at 220 S. Dawson Street (1953-20_)

The fire department also utilizes office space at the Emergency Communications Center at 2320 Westinghouse Boulevard, for the Emergency Management Division and other staff. 

May 2020 – Project on Hold

Around May 30, 2020, the official project site was updated and noted that the project was on hold indefinitely.  

November 2019 – Conceptual Rendering Continue reading ‘Relocating Fire Station 1 – Site Selected, Project Restarted’ »

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Relocating Fire Station 3 – Construction Bids Solicited

This is an ongoing blog posting about the project to relocate Raleigh Fire Station 3.


  • 5/14/24 – Construction Bids Solicited
  • 3/14/22 – Call for Artists
  • 3/14/22 – Official Project Site
  • 5/26/21 – Design Contract Awarded
  • 11/5/17 – Property Purchased

May 14, 2024 – Construction Bids Solicited

On May 14, 2024, the city advertised for formal construction bids. From city bid number #274-2024-CM-13:

“The project consists generally of the following major items. Construction of as new 11,105 sf fire station and other Work indicated in the Contract Documents. Work includes masonry cavity walls, structural steel roof framing, modified bituminous membrane and structural standing seam roofing, hollow metal doors and frames, flush wood doors, non-load-bearing steel framing and gypsum board interior walls, acoustical panel ceilings, and bi-folding and roll-up fire bay doors. Interior work also includes toilet accessories, residential appliances, and furniture. Exterior works includes clearing, grading, asphalt and concrete paving, pavement markings, concrete walks, curb and gutter, retaining walls, neighborhood transition wall, retention pond. Also included are NCDOT and handicap parking signage.”

Sealed bids would be received until June 25, 2024. Also, the bid announcement noted a new street address for the project, 936 Rock Quarry Road. 

March 14, 2022 – Call for Artists

On March 4, the city issued a call for artists, to design artwork for the facade or grounds of new Station 3. The project budget is $126,000, with qualifications submitted no later than April 15, 2022. More information

March 14, 2022 – Official Project Site Continue reading ‘Relocating Fire Station 3 – Construction Bids Solicited’ »

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Relocating Fire Station 15 – Construction Bids Solicited

This is an ongoing blog posting about relocating Raleigh Fire Station 15.


  • January 2024 – Construction Bids Solicited 
  • May 2023 – Replacement Project Budgeted
  • March 2022 – New Doors Installed
  • June 2016 – Federal Grant for Sprinkler Systems
  • April 2019 – Sprinkler System Installed
  • August 2015 – Station Renovations Project

January 2024 – Construction Bids Solicited

On January 5, 2024, an RFQ was issued for design and construction management services for relocating Raleigh Fire Station 15. The new facility is planned with ~17,000 square-feet and a construction budget of ~$13.5M, plus city contingency of $1.7M and projected escalation of $3.5M through end of construction in January 2027. The proposed site is on Spring Forest Road at Millbrook Exchange Park, near the current station. The RFQ is # 274-2024-CM-06.

Current Fire Station 15 opened on November 13, 1974. It’s a one-story structure with two drive-through bays and 5,664 square-feet. Changes over the years have included the expansion of the rear apparatus bay in 1996, to accommodate a larger aerial apparatus. It currently houses Engine 15 and Ladder 15. Over the years, it has also housed a battalion chief and a haz-mat unit. The Explorer Post was also based there for many years.

May 2023 – Replacement Station Budgeted

On May 16, 2023 – the proposed FY24 budget for the City of Raleigh was announced. Capital projects included $5.85M in FY24 and $11.5M in FY25 for replacing Fire Station 15. 

March 2022 – New Doors Installed Continue reading ‘Relocating Fire Station 15 – Construction Bids Solicited’ »

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Defiance Fire Company No. 2 of Statesville

In February, the City of Statesville posted a retrospective with new-old photos and information about Defiance Fire Company No. 2. They were an all-black volunteer fire company that was organized around 1894, and one of many in the state that formed in the mid- and late-19th century.[1]

[1] In 1905, black fire companies were serving in locations including Princeville, Greenville, Henderson, Warrenton, Washington, Raleigh, Elizabeth City, Salisbury, Charlotte, Monroe, Concord, Rocky Mount, Oxford, Durham, Tarboro, Edenton, Statesville, and Winston.

Defiance Fire Company No. 2 started with just 15 members and included these officers elected in May 1894: J.P. Murphy as President, Fred F. Chambers as 1st Director, S. G. Grey as 2nd Director, George W. Steward as 3rd Director, R. D. Baily as Secretary, J. A. Richardson as Treasurer, and J. W. Gaither as Janitor.

By 1905, the company had a roster of 125 volunteer members[2]. Reported the statistician of the North Carolina State Volunteer Firemen’s Association that year[3], they operated a hose reel with 500-feet of hose. The company was led by Chief C. Carmer.

[2] The number of 125 volunteers was cited in a Statesville Sanborn Fire Insurance map of 1905. Was that perhaps a typo? The aforementioned statistician’s report of the same year cites 25 volunteers, with statewide company membership totals ranging from the 10s to the 50s.
[3] See this blog post for source document.

The last of their members retired in 1958, some 45 years after they joined. Melvin Feimster and J. Quincy Davidson were featured in the Statesville Record and Landmark on August 2, 1958. See comments the clipping. The story was reprinted in Hose & Nozzle magazine, see the story

Will dig a bit more into the history and update the above Early Black Firefighters in North Carolina page accordingly. Great research by Captain Matt Thompson and Dr. Steve Hill, as cited in the city’s history posting.

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