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March 26, 2020
Photo error!. The previously included photos of a burning grandstand were not from this incident, but an earlier speedway fire in Greensboro. The grandstand at their fairgrounds burned on May 1, 1955. We will re-post the pictures in a new blog posting, with information about that incident.
March 21, 2010
Sunday, March 29, 1959, at the Wilson County Fairgrounds, in Wilson, NC. The annual Easter NASCAR ran was about to begin. But then a fire was discovered smoldering beneath the stands.
Twenty minutes passed before the Wilson Fire Department received the alarm at 1:45 p.m. And by then it was too late. The 200-foot long, 39-year old wooden building was consumed by flames, though without any injuries.
Some 3,000 spectators were safely evacuated, with calm directions over the loudspeakers. Fire Chief T. R. Bissette had praise for the officials, but also condemned the fans for “monkeying with the fire for 20 minutes before reporting it.”
The blaze was only a temporary disruption. Noted the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram on March 30, “the race began as soon as the fire was brought under control.”
These dramatic photos–two views plus closer-cropped sections–are from the Hose & Nozzle archives, courtesy of Troy FD. Original photographer(s) TBD.
See also this racing site posting for information about the fire: https://www.racing-reference.info/showblog?id=3418 [link expired]