First Fire Department in North Carolina?

This content first appeared as a Facebook posting in August 2021

Hey Mike, which fire department was the first in North Carolina? Great question. Let’s tease out an answer. First, some ground rules. For our purposes, fire department = fire company, as that was the verbiage of colonial times. Second, fire companies do NOT include those ad hoc groups of citizens that gathered at fires, to help battle the blaze. All that said, the answer is…

Salem in 1785, maybe. And if not Salem, then Edenton, Fayetteville, and Wilmington in 1791. How’s that for an inexact answer?

Here are my research notes, posted here for now. Will move to a blog post in a few days. Please check my work, and let me know your thoughts.

1745 – Wilmington – Legislation empowers city officials to collect tax for acquiring fire equipment. [MJL/NCL] However, they didn’t immediately “take advantage” of the act. [FAFC]

1750 – Wilmington – Town tax levied to purchase fire ladders and buckets. Similar taxes also levied in 1751 and 1755. At least four ladders and sixteen buckets were “immediately procured” and “to the dismay” of town officials, the ladders were used for “private purposes.” [FAFC]

1752 – Wilmington – Town officials decide that surplus tax revenues be set aside for purchasing a fire engine. This is done again in 1753, and 1754. [FAFC]

1754 – Wilmington – Legislation again empowers city officials to collect tax for acquiring fire engines. [MJL/NCL]

1755 – Wilmington – With surplus tax revenues insufficient to fund a fire engine purchase, town officials order “warrants of distress” against those who refused to pay their tax. This results in sufficient funds (they think) to buy the town’s first and state’s first fire engine. The cost ends up much greater, and measures are taken to, first, enlist citizen contributions (which fails) and then a new tax, in 1758, to pay off the loan, “build a shelter for the machine”, and presumably buy fire hooks. [FAFC]

First Fire Engine in State Continue reading ‘First Fire Department in North Carolina?’ »

Facebook Comments

Wake County Fire Commission Meeting – Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Wake County Fire Commission will hold its regular-schedule meeting on Thursday, November 18, 2021. This is a physical, in-person meeting. It starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Emergency Services Education Center, 221 S. Rogers Lane, Raleigh.

The agenda and meeting documents are below. Information on submitting public comments and access for viewing/listening are posted on the Wake County Public Meetings Calendar

View Meeting Documents (working link, ignore strikethrough)

Agenda

  • Meeting Called to Order: Chairman Keith McGee
    • Invocation
    • Pledge of allegiance
    • Roll of Members Present
    • Adoption of Minutes for July 15, 2021 Regular Meeting
    • Approval of Agenda
    • Recognition – Special Presentations
  • Public Comments:
  • Regular Agenda
    • Communication Sub-Committee Additional Members
    • Cost Share Data Element Adjustments
    • Cost Share Agreement Language Adjustments
    • Recruitment, Diversity & Inclusion Funding Presentation
  • Information Agenda
    • Fire Tax Financial Report – Aaron Brown
    • Standing Committee Updates
      • Administrative
      • Apparatus
      • Budget
      • Communications
      • Equipment
      • Facility
      • Health & Wellness
      • Training
      • Volunteer Recruitment & Retention Committee
    • Chair Report
    • Fire Services Report
  • Other Business
  • Adjournment – Next Meeting – January 20, 2022 ( Election of Chair & Vice Chair )
Facebook Comments

First Rated Rural Water Supply – Nahunta FD, 1979

Note: See this Facebook posting for comments and discussion about this blog posting.

This posting was updated on November 14, 2021

On August 1, 1979, the Nahunta Volunteer Fire Department in Wayne County became the first rural fire department in both North Carolina and the nation to receive a municipal fire insurance rating, because of a pioneering rural water supply system that used mutual aid tankers and portable dump tanks to provide a sustained and consistent flow of water for firefighting. 

As recounted in the Goldsboro News-Argus on February 26, 1980, the department’s rating of “Municipal Class 8” was “traditionally reserved for fire departments in cities and towns with fixed water supplies, fire hydrants, police forces, and other reserves not found in reserve areas.”

The department’s new rating took effect on August 1. Then on December 1, neighboring Polly Watson Volunteer Fire Department became the second to win the rating. (The county’s other rural departments were “working for it,” added the story.”) PWVFD was instrumental in NVFD’s rating, as the “fast-dump” water supply system relied on the participation of tankers from neighboring rural departments.

Insurance officials conducted inspections of Polly Watson, Fremont, Little River, Belfast, and Fork Township fire departments, in order to make their determination for Nahunta’s insurance rating. 

Continue reading ‘First Rated Rural Water Supply – Nahunta FD, 1979’ »

Facebook Comments

Three Asheville Firefighters Killed in Bostian Bridge Train Wreck, 1891

The Accident

On August 27, 1891, three Asheville firemen were killed and three others were injured when the passenger train they were riding plunged from a trestle in Iredell County. They were returning from the state firemen’s convention Durham. The train had just passed Statesville and plunged from the iron trestle over Third Creek at about 2:00 a.m. 

The steam locomotive and tender, the baggage and second class coach car, the first class coach car, a Pullman sleeping car, and a private car dropped 65 to 75 feet. Twenty people were killed immediately, nine were seriously injured, and some 20 suffered minor injuries. The final death total was 22. 

As shown in the below photos, the wooden railroad cars practically disintegrated upon impact. The accident was caused by what  newspapers called “spread of rails.” The bridge wasn’t damaged in the accident, however. 

Noted the Statesville Record & Landmark in a retrospective story by Ben Gibson in 2021, “most of the reporting from the incident came from The Landmark editor J.P. Caldwell, who reported from the scene and had a messenger take the information back to be published in the paper later that day.”

The Firefighters Aboard

Six members of the Asheville Fire Department were aboard Passenger Train No. 9. They were returning early from the event early, as rain had ruined the accompanying state firemen’s tournament.

Firefighters Perry Barnett, Samuel Gorman, and W. E. Winslow were killed, while Firefighters Will Bradford, John Gaze, Marshall Nix were slightly wounded. The bodies of the deceased firefighters were embalmed the next day by morticians from Charlotte and Durham, and were returned to Asheville on a 1:52 a.m. train on August 29, 1891.

The Durham meeting of the North Carolina State Fireman’s Association, along with the annual tournament, was held August 25-27, 1891. The Bostian’s Bridge accident ranks as the third deadliest rail crash in North Carolina history, behind the 29 people killed in Hamlet in 1906, and the 74 people killed in Rennert in 1943.

The Ghost Train Legend and a Fatal Accident 111 Years Later

On the first anniversary of the accident, said slightly varying accounts, the ghost of a uniformed railway employee with a gold watch was seen at the site. Over time, a legend grew that on that day of the year, the screening of wheels and screams of passengers could still be heard, along with the ghost of Baggage Master Hugh K. Linster, whose body was found with a broken neck in the wreckage.

On August 27, 2010, at about 2:45 a.m., on the 119th anniversary of the accident, about a dozen amateur “ghost hunters” were trespassing on the bridge, when three Norfolk-Southern locomotives [pulling no cars] approached. It had rounded a bend in the tracks and surprised the group.

The people on the bridge were about 150 feet from safety, in “extremely steep, rugged terrain” said a sheriff’s office official in news reports. One person was struck and killed, a 29-year-old male from Charlotte. Two others were injured and airlifted to a local hospital.

Reported the Winston-Salem Journal on August 30, the young man told his girlfriend “I love you” before pushing her to safety just as the train struck him. She feel 30 to 40 feet into the ravine, and was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. 

Sources

Facebook Comments

Auxiliary Trucks During the Forties

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Durham’s Auxiliary Trucks
  • Wilmington’s Auxiliary Trucks
  • Sources

Introduction

How many cities in North Carolina operated “auxiliary trucks” in the 1940s and later? Show are trucks from Wilmington, Raleigh, and Durham. 

The top photo, from a photocopy, appears in Wilmington Fire Department 1897-1985. More  on their auxiliary trucks below. The middle photo is Raleigh’s 1948 Ford “squad truck,” which replaced a 1944 Dodge destroyed in an accident the year before. The unit was still in service past 1963.

The bottom photo is Durham’s 1941 Ford, that later served Garner in Wake County, and then Harrell in Sampson County. More on Durham’s auxiliary trucks below.

Greensboro also operated one, reported a 1951 fire protection report. It was an International truck with a 350-gallon front-mount pump. It was also equipped with a 1,250-watt generator and floodlight, a foam generator with 200 pounds of powder, a foam aspirator with five gallons of liquid, and other “minor equipment.” 

Durham’s Auxiliary Trucks Continue reading ‘Auxiliary Trucks During the Forties’ »

Facebook Comments

Oak View Fire Department History

Research notes on the history of the Oak View Fire Department in Guilford County, which protected the Oakview community just outside the old city limits of High Point. They were chartered in 1952, started operating in 1955/56, and merged with the city on January 1, 1960. 

Newspaper Citations

See some of these articles in this Google Drive folder.

1952 to 1954 Continue reading ‘Oak View Fire Department History’ »

Facebook Comments

Wake County Ambulance Colors

Random chart. Ambulance colors of Wake County, past ‘n’ present. See this Facebook page for reference pictures. And which agencies are still operating? Exactly one[1]. Wake County EMS.

[1] Yes, “Raleigh Rescue” is still operating, but it’s been decades since they transported patients.

Facebook Comments

SAFRE 2021 – The 100 Year Report

One-hundred years and two weeks ago, the 34th annual convention of the North Carolina State Firefighter’s Association opened in Gastonia (pop. 12,871 in 1920). The three-day event was preceded by a reception for delegates and visiting tournament teams on Monday, August 22. The convention formally opened at 11:00 a.m. the following day, at the Gaston County Courthouse. On Wednesday, August 24, another business session was held, followed by a picnic and luncheon on South Street and Franklin Avenue, as well as baseball at Loray Park. The next day, and the last day of the event, tournament contests were held on Broad Street and Second Avenue, starting at 9:00 a.m.

Here are some highlights of the three-day event:

CALLED TO ORDER

Tuesday, August 23 – Morning Session
11:00 a.m. – Convention Hall

The convention was called to order by President James H. Wood of Asheville. As the minister who was scheduled to appear had not arrived, the President asked someone “on the floor” to offer a “prayer for our guidance during our deliberations.” The invocation was given by Chief W. P. Neister of Spencer Shops.

The Address of Welcome was given by Mayor R. G. Cherry of Gastonia. “It is indeed inspiring to come into the presence of a convention which is made up of a body of men like these fellows who have red hot American blood flowing through their veins,” he said, to start.

Continue reading ‘SAFRE 2021 – The 100 Year Report’ »

Facebook Comments

Raleigh Adds Shift Safety Officers

Big day in Raleigh yesterday. Safety Officer 14 was placed in service at 0800 hours on Saturday, July 17, 2021, the first shift-assigned incident safety officers (ISO) for the department.[1]

Staffed by three seasoned captains, the unit is based at Station 14, and is automatically dispatched on structure fires, haz-mat calls, and technical rescue calls. They can also be requested to other incidents as needed.

On scene, they’ll moving around and watching what’s happening, and looking for hazards and making suggestions as needed to the incident commander. They can also jump on the radio, if urgent safety matters need immediate attention.

Among their new equipment and PPE are high-visibility vests and SCBA identifiers, red. And one Fire Fighters Friend-brand exit locator device, which will be deployed just inside the threshold of a structure, to aid in evacuation. It’s equipped with both a flashing beacon and a siren.

Shown left to right at Captain/ISO K. C. Ray (A shift), Safety Chief Keith Wilder, Captain/ISO Stephen Welch (B shift), and Captain/ISO Brian Taylor (C shift).

[1] What’s the historical perspective? The most-recent Safety Officer position was created in 2010 as a day-duty position at Fire Administration. Currently filled by Battalion Chief Keith Wilder and named Safety Chief, it oversees the Health and Safety Compliance Division.

Earlier safety officers included Command Tommy Gattis, assigned to training, and who performed that role at (major?) incidents in the 1990s (and other years?). See the Facebook version of this posting for more about that. 

Facebook Comments

Wake County Fire Commission Meeting – Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Wake County Fire Commission will hold its regular-schedule meeting on Thursday, July 15, 2021. This is a physical, in-person meeting. It starts at 7:00 p.m. 

The agenda and meeting documents are below. Information on submitting public comments and access for viewing/listening are posted on the Wake County Public Meetings Calendar

View Meeting Documents

Agenda

  • Meeting Called to Order: Chairman Keith McGee
    • Invocation
    • Pledge of allegiance
    • Roll of Members Present
    • Adoption of Minutes for May 20 Regular Meeting
    • Approval of Agenda
  • Public Comments:
  • Items of Business
    • Committee Appointments
    • Update on Future Opportunities
  • Regular Agenda
  • Information Agenda
    • Fire Tax Financial Report – Aaron Brown
    • Standing Committee Updates
      • Administrative
      • Apparatus
      • Budget
      • Communications
      • Equipment
      • Facility
      • Health & Wellness
      • Training
      • Volunteer Recruitment & Retention Committee
    • Chair Report
    • Fire Services Report
  • Other Business
  • Adjournment – Next Meeting – September 16, 2021
Facebook Comments