North Carolina Largest Fires Database

Last updated December 13, 2022

See Deadliest Fires Database for fires with large loss of life. Contact Mike Legeros to contribute or correct information.

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Year Date Location County Loss (K) Blocks Buildings Notes
1816 Jun 11 Raleigh Wake     51 Destroyed 51 buildings in first two blocks of Fayetteville Street, the main business area of Raleigh. Source: Legeros research, Raleigh Register, June 14, 1816.
1819 Nov 3 Wilmington New Hanover     300~ Large section of town, estimated about 300 houses and buildings destroyed, including the new Presbyterian church. One death. Total loss between $600,000 and $700,000. Source: Cape Fear Recorder, Nov. 7, 1819.
1831 May 29 Fayetteville Cumberland     600+ Over 600 "private buildings burned that afternoon, including nearly every house, 105 stores, a school, two banks and two hotels." Source:
1832 Jan 7 Raleigh Wake     30 Source: Legeros research.
1835 Jul 2 New Bern Craven     14+ From "History of Firefighter in New Bern North Carolina - Colonial Days to the 21st Century" by Daniel Bartholf: An early morning fire on July 2, 1835 leveled every building between the Newbern Bank on Craven Street and Mr. Primrose’s residence on Pollock Street, a total of 6 stores, 5 store-warehouse combinations, and 3 dwellings and other outbuildings.  Damage was estimated at $50,000.  (July 3, 1835 The Weekly Standard)
1843 Apr 17 New Bern Craven     73 From "History of Firefighter in New Bern North Carolina - Colonial Days to the 21st Century" by Daniel Bartholf: On April 17, 1843, at about 2pm, a fire started at the Wade Mill at Union Point.  Strong southeast winds blowing at near gale force spread the fire to a warehouse and a building on South Front Street.  By mid-afternoon there were fires in 20 different sections of town.  Winds eventually changed to a westerly direction (in this case it would be from the west) which helped to stop the progress of the fire.  The fire destroyed everything on East Front Street and on Pollock Street up to Craven.  Fifty dwellings and buildings, eight stores, thirteen warehouses, a mill and a bakery were destroyed at a loss exceeding $100,000. (Apr. 26, 1843 The Weekly Standard, Raleigh.)
1849 Jan Greensboro Guilford 4 [?] First fire of major consequence. From the 1990 GFD history book: "In January 1849 Greensboro suffered its first fire of major con­ sequence. This fire nearly destroyed the entire business community of the town. J.B. Lossing, an author and historian recorded that the fire began in 'a large frame dwellling a short distance from the courthouse. There being no fire engine in the city, the flames spread rapidly and at one time menaced the safety of the whole town. A keg of powder was used without effect to demolish a tailor shop standing in the way of the conflagration towards a large tavern. The flames passed on until confronted by one of those broad chimneys on the outside of the house, so universally prevalent in the South, when it was subdued, after four buildings were destroyed.'"
1854 Dec 18 Statesville Iredell       Half of town destroyed or damaged. [Need source.] Raleigh Semi-Weekly Standard on Dec 30, 1854, reported that fire destroyed an entire square of the buildings, followed by the court house, a store, and other buildings. Fayetteville Observer, Dec. 28, 1854, noted that a hotel was also destroyed.
1864 Apr 30, May 9 Washington Beaufort       Large part of town, after Northern troops set fire to stockpile of naval stores. Washington Daily News, Apr 26, 2016, noted the burned buildings included several houses and warehouses and four chuches. Soon, another major fire on May 9 devestated the remaining areas of town not already destroyed, including the burning of another church.
1864 Nov 19 (20?) Wilmington New Hanover     20+ Fire on wharf destroys more than 20 buildings. [Source?]
1869 Sep 4 Goldsboro Wayne     21 Charlotte Democrat, Sep 14, 1869: Seventeen places of business, the Masonic Lodge, the Wayne Bording House, the Messenger and Post Printing offices, and Weil's Lumber Yard were all consumed.
1872 Jun 24 Greensboro Guilford     6+ From the 1990 GFD history book: In 1872 fire destroyed a large portion of the town once again. This fire leveled the County Courthouse, W. C. Porter's Drug Store, Farmer's Bank, Southern Hotel and two rows of framed law offices. Greensboro North State, Jun 27, 1872, reported a lost of $75,000.
1873 Apr 6 Enfield Halifax       Two railroad buildings, a grocery store, and other structures. Loss estimated at $30,000, reported the Raleigh News on Apr 8, 1873.
1886 Feb 21 Wilmington New Hanover     60 Waterfront fire started on the steamer Bladen, spread to a schooner and a steamer, as well as many buildings: "stores, offices, warehouses, sawmills, the Champion Cotton Compress, and railroad freight offices were burned down" from Two churches burned down and part of the predmoinately African-American Brooklyn neighborhood was also destroyed. Damage estimates ranged from half a million to $1.5M. The Weekly State Chronicle on Feb 25, 1886, reported 60 biuldings burned total.
1886 Mar 26 Wilmington New Hanover Destroyed a livery stable, the county jail, and a number of dwellings and stores, reported the Wilmington Morning Star on Mar 27, 1886.
1887 Mar 27 Clinton Sampson     49 Destroyed 49 dwellings, started in F. Reichmann's store. [Source?]
1888 Aug 19 Durham Durham     12 Destroyed two blocks or more. Durham Globe, Aug 20, 1888; Wilmington Messenger, Aug 23, 1888
1890 Mar 19? 20? Thomasville Davidson       Nearly every business on East Main Street. [Source?] The People's Press of Winston-Salem on Mar 27, 1890, noted three stores and a barber shop burned.
1892 Oct 5 Clinton Sampson     16+ Entire block of Wall Street. [Source?] From the Progressive Farmer, Oct 11, 1882, "fourteen business houses, the jail and one or more dwellings were destroyed."
1899 May 4? 5? Greenville Pitt     27 Daily Free Press on May 5, 1899: King house, post office, and 25 stores and offices destroyed.
1900 Sep 14 Washington Beaufort     150+ Business district destroyed. Daily Free Press, Sep 15, 1900: Damage included about 150 "shanties, huckster stalls, etc." along with larger buildings, including the market and armory, a law office, a drug story, an oystery factor, and dwellings.
1902 Jul 6 Clinton Sampson     43+ Entire southern section of town, including 43 stores. [Source?] The New Berne Weekly Journal, Jul 11, 1902, reported that "probably half of the business part of the town was burned" and "reports say that forty-two buildings were destroyed."
1907 Apr 2 Salisbury Rowan       Several buildings including a crate factory, buggy factory warehouse, and cement storage warehouse, reported the Carolina Watchman, Apr 3, 1907.
1911 Jun 12 Apex Wake     9 Business district destroyed. Source: Legeros research.
1912 Nov 24 Black Mountain Buncombe     11 Most of downtown business district around Depot and Cherry streets. [Source?] Asheville Gazette-News, Nov 25, 1912: Four stores, two livery stables, the freight depot, a dwelling, a lumber and coal business, and a blacksmith shop
1913 Feb 6 Rolesville Wake     10 Business section of town, ten buildings destroyed. Source: Legeros research.
1914 Mar 23 Durham Durham       Large portion of business district destroyed. $1M of loss, initially reported.
1918 Jul 2 Charlotte Mecklenburg     48 Four blocks of African-American settlements destroyed 48 homes, 250 homeless, started on Caldwell Street. Sources include CFD history. 
1918 Dec 17 Burlington Alamance       Downtown fire destroyed buildings including a hardware company, a furniture company, and a general store. With $250,000 initial estimated loss. Greensboro sent a fire apparatus by train, after a fire truck from Elon College overturned en route. High Point Enterprise, Dec 17, 1918.
1922 Dec 1 New Bern Craven 2,000+ 40 1,000+ Destroyed 40 blocks and left 3,000 people homeless.
1923 Oct 4 Blowing Rock Watauga     7+ Large part of business district. Destroyed "entire block of business houses." Led to formation of fire department. Source: Statesville Landmark, 08OCT23.
1933 Apr 15 Morehead City Carteret       The Atlantic Hotel. Mutual aid response included Kinston FD.
1933 May 29 Charlotte Mecklenburg       Virginia Carolina Chemical Company, West Tremont Avenue. Source: CFD yearbook..
1934 Jan 28 Wrightsville Beach New Hanover       Northern end of island including the Oceanic Hotel. Over 100 structures destroyed.
1935 Jun 22 Washington Beaufort       Moss Planning Mill Company. Five commercial buildings and four homes destroyed, and one firefighter killed.
1936 May Lexington Davidson       United Furniture Corporation. Fire fought over 12 hours.
1939 Nov 16 Wallace Duplin 17     Sloan Building and other structures in business district. Burgaw and Wilmington also responded.
1940 Feb 7 Knightdale Wake     6 Business section of town. Six structures destroyed.
1944 Jan 14 Greensboro Guilford       Gasoline tanker explodes, burns houses in 1000 block of Gorrell Street. Source: yearbook.
1944 Apr 8 Elizabeth City Pasquotank 450     Forman-Derrickson Veneer Company. $450,000 loss. Main plant destroyed along with more than a third of a mile of storehouses. Reported 5:30 a.m. Naval Air Station units also responded along with Coast Guard fire boat. Source: N&O, Apr 9, 1944.
1944 July 8 Durham Durham       Block of buildings including tobacco warehouses and other structures, bordered by Morgan, Foster, and Rigsby. Alarm time about 9:00 a.m. Controlled about midnight. Source: N&O July 9, 1944.
1945 Nov 6 Winston-Salem Forysth 660     Gorrell's warehouse, burned before dawn. Tobacco warehouse. Loss $665,000. Source: Rocky Mount Telegram, Nov 6, 1945; NCSFA Stat. report.
1946 Mar 7 Fuquay Springs Wake       Main block of downtown. Four businesses destroyed, five others damaged.
1949 Jan 21 Wilmington New Hanover 399   7 Orton Hotel, plus six adjacent buildings, $399,298 loss.
1949 Dec 7 Carthage Moore 475     Tobacco warehouse, plus Penn Premier Shows carnival equipment, some three dozen carnival trucks plus midway rides. Mutual aid from Sanford, Southern Pines, Pinehurst, and Aberdeen. Source: Burlington Daily-Times, Dec 7, 1949; NCSFA stat. report.
1950 June 23 Asheville Buncombe       Asheville Ice & Storage. Four alarms. Source: N&O, Jun 24, 1950.
1953 Mar 9 Wilmington New Hanover       Warehouses and other buildings.
1954 Jun 24 Charlotte Mecklenburg       Southern Railway Freight Terminal, South College Street. Building, 23 freight cars, 7 autos. Source: Yearbook.
1956 Feb 14 Winston-Salem Forsyth 1,490     B. F. Huntley furniture plant, $1,490,000 loss.
1959 Jun 28 Greensboro Guilford       New Home Building Supply Company, South Mendenhall Street. Estimated $250,000 damage. Source: yearbook.
1961 Sep 26 Morehead City Carteret       Navy tanker explodes and burns in Newport River, at Radio Island aviation fuel farm.
1964 Oct 19 Charlotte Mecklenburg       Doggett Lumber Company, South Boulevard & East Park Avenue. Last general alarm fought by  CFD. Source: Yearbook.
1964 Dec 23 Burlington Alamance       Destroyed two stores and damaged three others in heart of business district. Started about 9:30 p.m., three-hour battle. Assisted by Mebane, Elon College, and Haw River.
1965 Nov 2 New Bern Craven       Hotel William Tryon, opened 1855. Plus eight businesses located on ground floor of "rambling three-story structure." Discovered at 1:00 a.m. Crews on scene for 43 hours, including Kinston, MCAS CP, Bridgeton, and Township #7. Source: N&O Nov 3, 1965.
1969 Apr Asheville Buncombe       Bank of Asheville and Dunham's Music House buildings downtown.
1970 Oct 14 Greensboro Guilford       Greensboro Bonded Warehouse. Source: GFD yearbook.
1973 May 26? Hickory Catawba       Furniture plant, three alarms. Source: News & Observer, May 27, 1973.
1976 Jan 14 Marion McDowell ~7M     Broyhill Furniture Plant. Fire burned two buildings, the original 1904 plant building and a two-store warehouse on Old Henderson Street. Plant rebuilt that year, was 187,288 square-feet when rebuilt.
1978 Jan 10 Hertford Perquimans       Fire and explosion at Winslow Oil Company. More than 200 firemen from 14 departments responded, including Elizabeth City and Edenton. Source: Perquimans Weekly, Jan 6, 2021.
1978 Jun 12 Princeton Johnston       Fire and explosion at gasoline storage facility destroyed a quarter of the four-block business district. Mutual aid included two ARFF trucks from Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro. Source: N&O, June 13, 1978.
1978 Aug 8 Rocky Mount Nash       Kaiser Agricultural Chemical Company. Source: RMFD yearbook.
1979 May 25 Shelby Cleveland       Block destroyed, four firefighters killed.
1984 April 11 Marshville         Derailment and fire burned part of business district, destroying three buildings and four cars, plus other damage. Tank cars carrying methanol ruptured and the chemicals were ignited by sparks form downed power lines. Source: N&O, Apr 12, 1984.
1985 Apr 13 Greensboro Guilford     7 Seven buildings at 300 S. Davie Street.
1985 Apr 23 Charlotte Mecklenburg       Royster Fertilizer Company, 2300 LaSalle Street. Three alarms. Estimated loss $7 million. Source: CFD yearbook.
1986 Feb 13 Mt. Airy Surry       Samet Furniture Store fire, downtown. Mutual aid included a ladder truck from Winston-Salem. Source: OH.
1989 Aug 24 Radio Island Carteret       Fuel storage tank ignited after lightning strike, near Morehead City Port. The 2.5M gallon tank was filled with 250,000 gallons of jet fuel. Every FD within 50 miles responded, including units from MCAS Cherry Point. Source: N&O, Aug 26, 1989
1989 Oct 4 Swepsonville Alamance       Old Virginia Mills plant.
1995 Aug 3 Weeksville Pasquotank       Blimp hangar at the old naval air station. Cited as one of the world's largest wooden buildings, the 1942 building measured 1000 by 3000 feet. Some 80 firefighters and 16 pieces of equipment from 10 departments responded, including Kill Devil Hills FD from the Outer Banks, nearly 50 miles away. Source: Virginian Pilot, Aug 4, 1995.
1998 Aug 27 Winston-Salem Forsyth       R.J. Reynolds Plant #256, 13 engines, 5 ladders, 9 hours to control.
2003 Jan 29 Kinston Lenoir       West Pharmaceutical Plant explosion and fire. Over half of 150,000 square-foot plant destroyed.
2003 Sep 3 Swannanoa Buncombe       Beacon Manufacturing Plant, 32 fire departments, 24 engines, 7 ladders, 7 tankers, 522 personnel.
2007 Feb 22 Raleigh Wake       Townhouse community, 27 destroyed, 11 damaged, 72 people displaced.
2007 Sep Craven Havelock       General Headquarters building at MCAS Cherry Point.
2008 Aug 17 Robbins Moore       Over 200 firefighters from over 35 departments from five counties at former Milliken textile plant. The building measured 286,000 square-feet. Exposures included some 20 small houses near the mill. Source: WRAL, Aug 17, 2008.
2010 Jun 13 Greensboro Guilford       Fuel storage tank at Colonial Pipeline tank farm burned, after struck by lighting.  Tank contained almost a million gallons of gasoline. Mutual aid included foam units from Charlotte, and regional haz-mat teams, including from Raleigh. Two million gallons of water were used.
2017 Nov Lake Lure Rutherford       Party Rock Fire. Burned more than 7,000 acres. With over 170 fire departments from across state. Source: Winston-Salem Journal, Jun 4, 2020.



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