Factory photo of Cary’s new Ladder 8, and third of three Pierce Enforcer tillers. First two were delivered late last year. Should arrive this week. Download the uncropped photo in several sizes at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/piercemfg/50279529201/
March 6, 2015
Here’s today’s thought exercise. Should you post a fire photo to Facebook, if you’re a member of the department that’s fighting the fire?
Let’s talk through this.
Question one. Why Facebook, specifically? Versus elsewhere on social media or other web sites?
To me, Facebook seems like its own animal. So popular, so easily used, so easily misused. It’s also where Yours Truly spends much of his social media time. (Versus a more modest presence on Twitter, and nearly no use of other channels.)
Also, some have reservations or outright apprehension about Facebook. Since fire photos are records of “other people’s lives,” it’s easy to imagine someone saying “I didn’t call the fire department just to see my life posted on Facebook.”
(Now there’s a social experiment worth conducting! Measure public reactions to identical fire photos, as posted on Facebook versus Instagram, Twitter, official web site, or personal web site.)
Question two. Why are talking about firefighters only? Why not all responders, including EMS and law enforcement?
We’re starting simple. Bear with me. We’ll be talking a bit about medical responders, often components of a fire department. Either as first responders or fire-based EMS.
Question three. What about all those fire photos posted by Legeros and Lee Wilson? Or what photojournalists and the “the news” produce? Or just Joe Q. filming from the street corner?
Good question! On one hand, it’s absolutely a different animal. None of those individuals are city/county/agency employers or members. Nor are they responders with real and perceived responsibilities.
On the other hand–at least with the news and our favorite fire photogs—they have their own protocols. They, too, weigh issues such as personal values, employer or sponsor procedures, and the base ethics of their actions.
But back to firefighters…
Shooting Photos versus Posting Photos
We’ll start with semantics. Shooting versus posting.
Every photo posted to Facebook is actually three things:
- The photo itself.
- The action of posting the photo.
- Any caption, commentary, or comments included (or later added) to the photo.
Sometimes simply taking a photo is problematic.
Think about, say, a fire investigator arriving a working structure fire. They hop out of their “red car” and begin snapping pictures for documentation. Bystanders observe this and contrast their actions with the other arriving units. “Why is that guy taking pictures? Why isn’t he going to get a hose?”
Sometimes taking a photo is “okay”, but posting is a problem.
Responders may take pictures for internal use of severe accidents involving fatalities, such as an extended extrication or complicated technical rescue. (They’re particularly good training tools.) But if those photos are shown to the public, the response by the public is usually negative.
Sometimes both taking and posting a photo is fine, but captions or comments cause problems.
There’s a world of difference between the picture of a house fire with the caption “Engine 50 fought a fire today” versus such captions as “Strong work by Engine 50 today” (good) or “Good day for a barbecue” (bad).
Posting Photos Officially
Let’s define “official photo” as any picture that a fire department releases for public consumption. And, for our purposes, also posts to Facebook. Could be a picture taken by a civilian. Could be a donated news photo. Most likely it’s a picture taken by a member of the department.
When should you post or not post a photo from an incident? Here’s my take, based both on (a.) my approach to posting scene pictures and (b.) what I’ve observed as posted by fire departments to Facebook.
This week the Town of Warrenton (NC) announced on Facebook that the Plummer Hook & Ladder Museum (not yet open to the public) had a new addition, their second piece of antique apparatus: the town’s old 1982 American LaFrance Century pumper, 1250/1000/25F . The engine originally served Austin, TX, and was equipped with a 500-gallon tank. Purchased by the town in [need date].
It was one of two remaining town trucks in operation when the municipal (and all-black) WFD ceased operation in 2004. Along with a 1987 E-One Hurricane rear-mount platform, 1250/200/95-foot, that formerly served Orange County FL, the town trucks were disposed to Warrenton Rural FD, which currently protects the town. The 1982 ALF also later received a 1000-gallon tank.
Top picture by Legeros from 2013.
What’s the (complete) history of the Cary/Yrac split in the early 1960s, that created a second fire department for calls outside of town? Have lately found conflicting accounts. Let’s take a (long) look.
Legeros in 2003, from his Raleigh & Wake County Firefighting [Volume I], wrote the following:
“In 1961, the Cary fire department became two fire departments: one operated by the Town and another run by rural residents who rejected the Town’s proposed fees for fire protection. The newly created district was named Yrac, which later became the name of the fire department.”
That’s a good starting point. Let’s go backward in time, to some earlier recaps. Here’s what retired Cary Fire Chief Ned Perry recounted in a 1997 history:
“[In 1960, the] Cary Rural Volunteer Fire Department was divided into two separate fire departments. The division was made to formally create the Cary Fire Department. The Cary Rural Volunteer Fire Department had responded to all emergency calls in the Cary Area, including those areas in the Town limits and those calls that were outside of the Town limits. After the division of the Cary Rural Volunteer Fire Department, the rural department changed its name to the YRAC Fire Department. (YRAC is CARY spelled backwards.) After the division the Cary Fire Department was responsible for all calls inside the Town limits and YRAC Fire Department responded to all alarms outside of the Town limits.”
Also in 1997, a similar summary was included in a Cary FD souvenir booklet:
“On September 15, 1960, a division was made to formally create the Cary Fire Department. Before this date the fire department was known as the Cary Rural Volunteer Fire Department. This department responded to any call in the Cary area. After the division, the Cary Fire Department was responsible for any calls within the Cary town limits and the rural department was responsible for any call outside the town limits . The Cary Rural (YRAC) Volunteer Fire Department is still responsible for some areas outside the Cary town limits today and assists the Cary Fire Department when needed.”
But what were the motivating factors behind that split? Let’s build a timeline and see what we find…
- 1952 – Cary FD reorganized, reborn.
- 1953 – Modern pumper delivered, first annual Fireman’s day, etc.
- 1953 – Cary FD incorporated as private corporation, Cary Rural FD, Inc.
- 1956 – By this time, Civil Defense rescue services added, plus two tankers.
- 1957 – County creates rural fire district, for areas outside town limits. CRFD now gets $100 per month.
- 1958 – County approves renaming Cary Rural Fire District district to Yrac Rural Fire District, e.g. Cary spelled backwards.
- 1960, Jun – CRFD member Vernon Thompson killed when the 1954 shop-built tractor-drawn tanker overturns.
- 1960, Jul – Three weeks after the accident, CRFD members request, then demand liability insurance from town. In one heated meeting, some threaten to resign.
- 1960, Aug – Insurance issue raises questions and considerations of governance. After meetings and committees, the Mayor recommends (a.) providing insurance and (b.) creating a town-run FD, with full-time fire chief.
- 1960, Aug – Special committee on matter issues report with recommendation to, instead, create town-run CFD but with volunteer fire chief, and separate town and rural sections.
- 1960, Sep – Town Board approves committee recommendations, new organization takes effect September 15.
- 1961, May – County funding to rural department interrupted, due to administrative issues. Soon resumed.
- 1961, Jul – County approves Yrac Rural Fire District changes, adjusting for new Fairgrounds and Swift Creek FD districts.
- 1961, Sep – Something changes, and Cary’s rural fire protection is in jeopardy. And/or, town wants to begin charging rural residents for the service.
- 1961, Sep – Rural citizens meet and approve forming their own fire department.
- 1961, Nov – Yrac Rural FD Inc. created, using the assets of Cary Rural FD Inc., which was then the rural-serving section of the Cary FD.
- 1961, Dec – YRFD approves giving all assets and monies to town, except for one Ford F3 truck, unequipped, and a 1956 shop-built International tanker plus equipment, and $1,500 of their funds, kept for themselves.
- 1961, Dec – YRFD begins operation on December 1, from a rented building on Cedar Street.
- 1962, Jan – YRFD starts membership drive for funding. However, over the years, they need a better source of revenue. They then pursue a tax levy.
- 1962, May – New pumper delivered, 1961 Chevy/American LaFrance.
- 1962, May – Tenth annual Cary Fireman’s Day now sponsored by YRFD instead of CFD. This becomes a permanent change.
- 1962, Oct – Second tanker added.
- 1964, Dec – Resides vote in special election and approve creating a fire tax district, to properly fund YRFD. Department has three trucks, 24 volunteers, and an HQ in a rented building on Cedar Street.
- And everybody lived happily ever after.
Tale of a tragedy from western North Carolina. Early in the morning of Tuesday, July 14, 1942, a pair of explosion at a bulk fuel storage facility in Waynesville killed six people, and also fatally injured Fire Chief Lawrence Kerley. The local newspaper, the weekly Waynesville Mountaineer, provided ample coverage of the disaster, including these two pictures. Read the July 16 issue at http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92074106/1942-07-16/ed-1.
Annotations of the “after” photo, from the next day: (a) oil still burning from the warehouse building, (b) the remains of the tanker truck that was unloading, (c) the horizontal storage tank that was thrown across the highway and over the train tracks, (d) ruins of the Caldwell home, where four people died, and (x) ruins of the Paul Walker home, that was “blown down” and burned.
Leaking Fumes Explode
Some time around 3:00 a.m. an employee at the Standard Oil Company “bulk plant” on Water street discovered gasoline leaking from one of three horizontal storage tanks. He called the Fire Chief, who responded in a town car.
Chief Kerley was apparently near the plant office when fumes from the leak ignited, at 3:20 a.m., and caused the tank to exploded. The chief ran about 400 yards to a nearby home, his clothing in flames. The resident at the house rushed him to Haywood County Hospital. (He would die from his injuries a month later.)
The storage tank, with one end sheared off and landing 50 feet away, was thrown against a parked gasoline tanker truck, and then landed 250 feet away, on the other side of the highway, and over a row of rail cars and their tracks. (While knocking over one of said coal cars.)
The blast also set aflame the nearby residence of the Caldwell family, where the wife and two children were reportedly killed instantly. The husband escaped his burning house and was found 100 yards away by a policeman. The husband died at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. that morning.
Also critically injured was the oil company employee, who died the following day, and a truck driver, who died four days later.
There were two 4,000-gallon gasoline tanker trucks parked at the plant. After the fire department arrived, the firemen moved one of the trucks to safety. But about thirty minutes after the first explosion, the second tanker exploded. (It was carrying 4,000 gallons of gasoline.)
The imminent explosion was described as sounding like “the burning fuse of a giant fire cracker, or escaping steam from a locomotive.” After the resulting blast, “the mass of gasoline shot hundreds of feat into the air.”
A crowd had gathered after the first explosion, and the second blast sent “hundreds scurrying for shelter.” Several people were also injured, receiving cuts and bruises “when [the] throngs started running.” Also noted news accounts were the sixty people observing the “unobstructed view of the holocaust” did not realized they were standing ankle-deep in poison ivy.
Firemen + Air Raid Wardens
Some twenty-five Waynesville firemen–along with local “air raid wardens”–battled the blaze, with hose lines supplied from four hydrants on all sides of the burning tanks. They also played a hose on the exposures: three houses, the Pure Oil Company plant, and the West Coal Yard. (None of the firemen were injured in the second explosion, either.)
When the first explosion happened, the fire department sounded the alarm for the air raid wardens, “as it was not known at that time what the trouble was.” (Recall this was after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Civilian Defense initiatives were in place.)
Canton sent a pumper to the scene, and a carload of Asheville firemen arrived to assist, along with Asheville Chief Fitzgerald.
One of the wooden train cars was still burning at 10:00 a.m. that morning, when a train crew moved it away. The last of the flames at the plant died out the following afternoon, fifteen hours after the first explosion.
Passing of Chief Kerley
Chief Kerley was hospitalized at Haywood County Hospital, and remained there a month. Though initial updates were positive, during the first couple of weeks his condition apparently worsened. He died of his injuries on Friday afternoon, August 21. He was buried two days later at Greenhill Cemetery, with last rites held at the First Baptist Church.
“Under a blanket of pink gladioli” his body was carried from his home to the church and then the cemetery by the fire truck that the chief “had driven so many times during the years he served the fire department.”
Among the honorary pallbearers were firemen from Asheville, Canton, Hickory, and Sylva.
Two alarms were struck in Durham just before midnight on Tuesday, August 11, 2020.
Dispatched 11:50 p.m. for 512 Gordon Street. Three-story condo building, under construction. Behind the old the police station. Engine 1 advised smoke column while en route, requesting the box be filled. Second alarm requested by Engine 1 officer on arrival, with center section of building fully-involved.
Listen to the radio traffic:
Engine 1 caught their own hydrant at the site, and started flowing their deck gun, along with 200-feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Ladder 2 was flowing within minutes of arriving after Engine 1, supplied from a hydrant at Duke and Jackson.
Ladder 3 caught a hydrant at Duke and Yancey, and set up on the “A” side of the structure, which command labeled as the “C” side. Both Ladder 2 and Ladder 3 flowed.
Ladder 6 initially was directed to the A/D corner, but due to the distance from the street, was unable to reach the structure. It was redirected behind E1 and L2 as a back up.
Ladder 12 set-up on the BC corner. Unsure if they also had a hydrant supply. They were used for elevated monitoring of conditions. Ladder 17 was staged.
Watch drone footage by Nathan Lawrence:
Collapse conditions were observed pretty quickly into the incident. Crews kept a safe distance. Sounds like the bulk of the fire was controlled within 30 minutes of the incident.
With extended overhaul, as crews checked the remainder of the building–as safely as possible–for hot spots. Plus extinguishing the debris pile.
Some 75 firefighters on scene, with twenty-three fire companies. And with just a handful of engine companies plus one quint still in service in the city.
Investigators (DFD, DPD, DCFM, NC-OSFM, ATF) worked the scene well into midday, when Legeros arrived for lunch-time shots.
Fire units on scene:
- E1, E2, E3, E4, E5, E6, E8, E9, E10, E12, E13, E14, E17
- L2, L3, L6, L12, L17
- Q7, Q11
- Sq1, Sq4
- B1, B2, B4
- Safety 1
- FD8, FD10, FD20, FD32, FD39
- Dispatched 11:50 p.m.
E1, E2, E3, E4, L2, L3, R1, Sq1, B1, B4.
- Box filled for working fire at 11:52 p.m.
E5, E9, E10, E13, L6, Q7, MS1, Safety 1, FD8, FD20
- Second alarm dispatched 11:53 p.m.
E6, E8, E14, E17, L12, L17, Q11
The officers of the first-arriving engine and ladder companies have shared their personal stories of that night, as a peer support resource. The recording was produced by the Greensboro Fire Department History Book Committe, and is linked from their web site at http://gfhbc.org/
This blog posting was originally posted on Legeros Fire Line on Facebook. This version includes added news links.
Five children died after an apartment fire in Greensboro on Saturday morning, May 12. The two-alarm fire was reported just before 4:00 a.m. at 3100 Summit Avenue. That’s a two-story brick apartment building, 13,835 square-feet. Fourteen units. Built 1962.
A father and five children were in apartment G at the time of fire. (The mother was at work.) The children’s ages ranged from 18 months to six years old. Firefighters rescued all six from the structure. They were treated on scene and then transported to Moses Cone Hospital. Two of the children died on Saturday.
The three surviving children were taken to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, where they died on Sunday.
News & Record photo
Rescued Within 15 Minutes
Noted a press release, the fire department was dispatched at about 3:54 a.m. Reported apartment fire. Arriving units found heavy smoke and flames coming from the front of the structure. The five children and their father were removed from the structure in less than 15 minutes after the first-arriving unit.
The fire was controlled at 4:24 a.m., though a second alarm was struck. Presuming for manpower. No additional details (yet). First due was Engine 14 and Ladder 14.
There will be a long tail to this tragedy, from the grief of the family and their refugee community, to the stress suffered by the responders, and to—again, always again—the renewed focus on fire safety. On working smoke alarms. On preventable deaths. And language and cultural challenges.
The Greensboro Fire Department held a press conference on Monday afternoon. You can watch the entire thing on this WFMY page. It’s about thirty minutes long. Crank the volume, however, as the microphone levels are low.
The apartment did not have working smoke alarms, notes Fire Marshal Tim Henshaw. And he and the department are challenging folks to check their own detectors… and share the results. Take a selfie, take a video. And tag with the hashtag #HearTheAlarm. Spread word and spread the safety.
Saturday’s fire was the deadliest in Greensboro history, and the worst since 2002, when four people were killed after an intentionally set apartment fire near the UNC-Greensboro campus. That fire was started as a prank.
- News and Record – May 12 – Two children killed in Greensboro fire, three others in critical condition
- News and Record – May 14 – Greensboro apartment fire claims lives of 3 more children; death toll at 5
- News and Record – May 14 – Questions follow deaths of 5 children in Greensboro
- News and Record – May 16 – At tense meeting about deadly Greensboro apartment fire, city says it will inspect complex
- Fox 8 – May 13 – All 5 children who were in the apartment fire in Greensboro have died
- WXII 2 – May 14 – Smoke alarms weren’t working in apartment where blaze left 5 refugee children dead
Google for others.
Sadly, such multi-fatalities fires involving children have happened before, both in decades past and more recently. Here’s my data on the state’s deadliest fires, though it hasn’t been updated in a few years:
- 2003, Jul 9 – Onslow County – Mobile home. Six children killed, ages 2 mo. to 15
- 2000, Nov 11 – Rocky Mount – House fire. Seven killed including six children, ages 4 mo. to 14.
- 1989, Nov 18 – Maxton – Mobile home. Nine killed including eight children, ages 2 to 12.
- 1985, Jan 22 – Henderson – House fire Seven killed, ages 3 to 17.
- 1968, Jan 14 – Zebulon – Senior citizen and five children.
- 1964, Dec 19? – Kinston – House fire. Five children killed.
- And others.
In September 1971, the Town of Cary Safety Committee released a report with recommendations for improvements to the fire department. CFD like other town departments–indeed, like the community itself–had experienced growing pains. From 1960 to 1970, the town population explosion 121.4%, with expected 14% growth each year from 1970 to 1980.
The fire department was presently protecting 7,500 residents and property valued at around $30,000. They had a full-time fire chief, Terry Edmundson, hired January 1, 1971. And he had brought new ideas to the department, though, as the report noted, “there were naturally some questions raised for changing of old procedures or techniques.” He established guidelines and rules and regulations that both paid and volunteer members were to adhere to. And failure to meet those standards resulted caused problems, including the dismiss of one fireman.
On the other hand, noted the report, the fire department had been built up through the years by volunteers who “built up loyalty and pride [to] the present [department].” And some of those members were not measuring up to the high standards set down in years past. Thus, said the report, the Chief, the volunteer firemen, and paid firemen had “failed to communicate with each other” and this caused a morale problem.
Thus Mayor Fred Bond requested that the Safety Committee–consisting of Councilman Thomas Griffis, Chairman, and Russell Secrest–to “make an inquiry into all phases of the fire department.” The investigation took about four weeks, and the committee talked with most of the paid and volunteer firemen.
They found, in general, that there was a “conflict in personality” on a “number of incidents” [instances?], a “lack of communication” between the chief and the firefighters, and “the absence of an organizational structure.” Though there was a structure present, it had “failed to prove itself” as effective. And which made sense, as the Chief had only been employed for a short time, his Assistant Chief was “from the ranks of the volunteers,” and the two lieutenants had a “minimum amount of administrative training.”
Thus, upon concluding their investigation, the committee made a list of recommendations. Those are below. They also made recommended some immediate actions to the Town Manager and the Fire Chief. One of those was that Chief Edmundson was to immediately cease using his personal pick-up truck in any capacity with the fire department. He was to park away the truck away from the fire station, and “do everything possible to remove red lights, radios and other [identifying] emblems,” so it couldn’t be identified as “official Cary Fire Department equipment.”
Also, Chief Edmundson was living at the fire department at that time [!] and was instructed to immediately find living quarters away from the fire station.
For the department in general, their recommendations were:
1. After interviewing both volunteer and paid firemen, their opinion was that a fully-paid [career] fire department should be created “when funds are available.”
2. When there’s a promotional opening, all qualified firemen “should be given a written examination” and the promotion based on “their qualifications and examination.”
3. Rules and Regulations should be updated, each member furnished a copy, and one or more meetings held to review the rules with the members.
4. Minimum salaries should be “raised upward as soon as possible” and which will “assist in employing trained personnel.”
5. The addition to the “Central Fire Station” should be completed as soon as possible.
6. A new radio system should be installed immediately.
7. The Fire Chief should hold a staff meeting at least once a month with himself, the Assistant Chief, and his Lieutenants, to keep them “informed on activities, policies, and problems within the department.”
8. Volunteer firemen should not be permitted to be members of other fire departments or police departments.
9. Volunteer firemen who fail to meet the “minimum drills and meetings” for two successive month, without excuse, should be removed from the roster.
10. All drills should be conducted when scheduled, and there “should be serious consideration before cancelling” any.
11. A code of conduct should be established “setting forth [expectations for] personal habits.” It should emphasize “drinking habits, driving habits, and any other personal habits which would reflect on the individual, the fire department, or the uniform.”
There’s an ironic footnote to the last item, as Chief Edmundson would later resign due to allegations of improper personal conduct. He left office in August 1975, after allegations that he made two false alarm telephone calls from his home. He was initially suspended two weeks without pay, and formally resigned on August 7. The town declined to make an investigation. Chief Edmundson was subsequently hired as chief of the airport fire department, and where he served until his death in 1985.
Source: Safety Committee Report, September 23, 1971
July 27, 2020 – Non-Facebook commenting has been disabled due to technical issues. Will fix soon.
This week the Wake New Hope Fire Department announced a new numbering of their units on their Facebook page. Here’s their note:
“The eastern Wake County fire departments are standardizing their unit numbers, and as a result, we will be renumbering several of our apparatus. With our original station being numbered 28, all of our new assignments will utilize the 28 prefix going forward.
- Our primary engine from Station 1, Engine 1, will now be referred to as Engine 281
- Our primary engine from Station 2, Engine 4, will now be referred to as Engine 282
- Our reserve/volunteer engine from Station 2, Engine 3, will now be referred to as Engine 284
- Our heavy rescue from Station 2, Rescue 14, will now be referred to as Rescue 28
- Our primary brush/wildfire apparatus from Station 2, Brush 7, will now be referred to as Brush 28″
Between New Hope’s change and Eastern Wake’s merger with Knightdale this month, we’ve inched slightly closer to a countywide schema. Here’s the score so far:
- 0-9 – All departments
- 10-19 – Raleigh, Cary, Knightdale, Northern Wake, RDU (plus other FDs with Car 10, Car 11, etc.?)
- 20-29 – Raleigh, Morrisville, New Hope, Northern Wake
- 30-39 – Apex, Northern Wake
- 40-49 – Northern Wake
- 50-59 – Northern Wake
- 90-99 – Zebulon
- 110-119 – Wendell
- 130-139 – Knightdale
- 150-159 – Rolesville
- 160-169 – Durham Highway
- 170-179 – Durham Highway
- 190-199 – Western Wake
- 220-229 – Hopkins
- 280-289 – New Hope
- 290-299 – Western Wake