New Hanover Fire History - Research Notes

One-Man Fire Department - 1950 to 1952

Last updated: September 5, 2018

Disclaimer: This document consists of research notes, with incomplete historical information collected from varied sources. This narrative is not necessarily comprehensive, and likely omits valuable additional and contextual information, due to its unavailability.

See related documents: rosters, deeds, minutes, etc.


1944, Nov 6 - BoC Minutes - Six representative citizens of Sunset Park filed a petition, urging the Board of Commissioners to "post whatever bond may be necessary" to ensure that the city fire department receive the money necessary to "cover the cost of their operations in extinguishing conflagrations in the Sunset Park area." Matter discussed at length and county attorney said the Board has legal right to make such an agreement. Adopted that the county will pay the city $100 for responding to any call of and individual "to extinguish burning buildings or buildings" outside of the city limits. The board understands that $100 will be required of those individuals that request responses, and the county will be reimbursed by the owners of the buildings affected. [ Is this the first instance of the city providing protection to unincorporated areas? ]

1945, Apr 3 - BoC Minutes - Approved $100 payment to city for responding to fire call at County Home on March 28, 1945.

City Ends Protection

1950, Feb 6 - BoC Minutes - Board received letters stating city will no longer be able to provide fire protection outside the city limits in the near future. Commissioner Thurston Davis [earlier?] wrote a letter to the Board saying it was imperative that they "took this matter seriously" and a committee be formed to "come up with a strategy for rural fire protection" in the county, once a deadline is set by WFD.

1950, Feb 20 - BoC Minutes - Received offers of help to provide temporary fire apparatus from Wilmington FD, as well as Wrightsville Beach FD and Carolina Beach FD.

1950, Feb 27 - BoC Minutes - The meeting was attended by a vendor to demonstrate a piece of high-pressure fog fire equipment and pump, that would be mounted on a one-and-a-half ton truck for $3,500. The equipment was designed to be operated by three men, but one "can handle in an emergency situation." Also, "Motion carried on City request to loan fire truck to County."

1950, Mar 6 - BoC Minutes - Board reviewed plan for an "experimental fire truck." It's a portable pump mounted on a chassis, that uses pressure from Nitrogen through a fog nozzle. They approved to have Allen Perryman build the first pump to demonstrate. Also, more discussion about proper placement of the fire truck for maximum response with the county. They emphasized Seagate/Winter Park due to centralized location. Also, decision to house fire truck(s) at the county airport.

Also, they received another letter by Commissioner Thurston Davis, outlining [a request for the?] hiring of a 24-hour driver/mechanic for the fire truck, that would be housed at a facility free of charge, and "utilities taken care of." There would also "be a press" for individual communities to form their own fire protection with a plan to have the department chiefs "answer to the Sheriff" and be trained by the Wilmington Fire Chief. And "communication of emergencies" would be "coordinated through the Sheriff"s Department."

1950, Mar 13 - BoC Minutes - City has approved the loan of one of their "auxiliary fire trucks" to the county, free of charge, until July 1, 1950. They informed the Board that effect March 16, they will no longer respond into the county for emergencies, unless it was to "prevent conflagration" or "where human life is danger." Also, "hiring process" to be held on Mar 13, to hire a full-time drive/mechanic for the county fire truck.

Fireman Hired

1950, Mar 13, after - Earl G. Burroughs was hired as the driver/mechanic, and the county fire truck was housed at Bluethenthal Field (later Wilmington airport). The position was 24/7 and staffed only by him. The truck and county fire service would be unavailable, if he was not working for any reason.

1950, Apr 3 - BoC Minutes - Letter was received from military commander at airport, "expressing their happiness" over having the county fire truck on side, that could "quickly mitigate any fires happening to their facilities."

1950, Apr 24 - BoC Minutes - Winter Park Civic Club presented a petition to move the county fire truck from the airport to the Winter Park area as soon as a facility could be made available. They also requested that the county return the loaned apparatus due to age and "poor quality" of the equipment. They requested that $20,000 be approved to purchase used firefighter equipment and apparatus. They also recommended "zoning" the different communities for the purpose of collecting monies to "operate their respective fire protections."

1950, May 1 - First recorded call for county FD. Responded to multiple brush fires in the same area. Burroughs requested that more information be provided to citizens "in regards to burning on property."

1950, May 22 - BoC Minutes - Mr. Allen Perryman demonstrated portable fog nozzle nitrogen pressure-operated firefighting apparatus.

1950, Jun 12 - BoC Minutes - First reference to county FD called New Hanover County Fire Department.

1950, Jun 19 - BoC Minutes - Board announced public meeting on June 26, for discussion of future fire protection, to plan for the next budget year.

Helping Each Other

1950, Jul 10 - BoC Minutes - Board approved letter to be drafted thanking WFD and citizens of Wrightsboro for helping the county FD at a fire at the Goodwin Lumber Company.

1950, Jul 25 - BoC Minutes - Board approved [annual?] budget for "county firemen" for $3,300.

1950, Jul 31 - BoC Minutes - Board approved letter to be drafted thanking Maffitt Village FD and Carolina Beach FD for their help with a fire. MVFD operated in the Rutledge Drive area, at Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road. Also, the Board approved the purchase of fog nozzles and adapters for their equipment.

1950, Nov 20 - Board Meeting - Burroughs requested approval of a second man to "give him some relief." Motion tabled for more discussion.

1950, Nov 27 - BoC Minutes - "Closing of fire truck shed discussed to protect trucks." [ Meaning, shed was open-air? And they wanted a door? ]

1951, Mar 9 - BoC Minutes - Board requests that Airport Manage H. Hoyd Jr. and "fireman" Earl Burroughs be sworn as a Deputy Sheriff, apparently necessary in connection with their duties. Also City Manager J. R. Benson told the Board that "if it should become necessary for the City to use the fire truck loaned to the County, he would have to ask for its return."

1951, Apr 9 - BoC Minutes - Board approved suggestion by Mr. O'Shields that the "expense of the Wrightsboro Fire Department in helping the County Fireman on occasions" should be repaid by the county. As recorded, the motion "was the consensus of the Board to that effect."

1951, Jun 11 - BoC Minutes - Board authorized payment of $5.00 for "refilling the gas cylinder" of the Seagate FD at the recent fire at Godwin Lumber Company.

1951, Jul 9 - BoC Minutes - Board gave instructions to write Mr. Sherwood Brockwell, State Deputy Commissioner of Insurance, to "ascertain what requirements our local Volunteer Fire Departments would have to meet to become eligible for membership in the North Carolina State Firemen's Association, and to receive benefits it may afford."

Offer From Maffitt Village

1951, Jul 16 - BoC Minutes - Board chairman read a letter from B. H. Marshall Jr., Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Wilmington. The Richmond Field Office had authorized him to "make a new offer" to the county. If the county will assume the responsibility of the upkeep and operation of the fire truck, the city will sell them the Maffitt Village FD fire truck and all equipment for $50, and provide the use of the garage where the truck is housed rent-free; and will provide one dwelling unit rent-free, for use of fire truck personnel, as long as the government or Housing Authority remains in control of the "Vance Section of Maffitt Village." The "offer was received for further investigation."

Also, Mr. Hugh Morton praised the county FD for its actions at a recent brush fire in the Fort Fisher area. He also urged encouragement of the organized volunteer FDs in various parts of the county to coordinate their efforts with the "County Central Fire Department." E. B. Wright of Wrightsboro VFD said they would send part of their equipment and manpower to cooperate with other units as needed. They also asked about the question of personal liability and the county attorney answered that, in his opinion, they would not be liable "except for gross negligence."

Also, Board authorized the purchase of a trailer and tanks for the county FD, at approximate cost of $400.00.

1951, Jul 30 - BoC Minutes - Board voted to decline offer of Maffitt Village FD. They felt that if they accepted, they could only "maintain the services of one man which would materially reduce the present fire fighting personnel and therefore could not provide the services now being furnished that community."

1951, Aug 27 - BoC Minutes - Board told of recent interview with Donald B. Charles, President of the state fireman's association, and Salisbury Fire Chief Charles Burkett, concerning Rowan County's successful operation of fourteen active VFDs. Both offer to come down and explain their system "if decried."

Also, County fireman Burroughs reported on a fire at Winter Park on Sunday night, August 26, that destroyed a home. The response to that fire was delayed due to "failure in getting the call through to his department promptly."

Fire Department Moved From Airport

1951, Sep 4 - BoC Minutes - Board voted to accept offer of Maffitt Village FD. Also, request made to move the fire siren at Mr. R. V. Rogers store on the Seagate Loop Road to the Seagate FD, to be used for both fire and civil defense purposes. Approved.

They will purchase the "Maffitt Village fire truck and equipment at a total price of $50.00 including the use of the garage, rent free, dwelling unit for the fireman and family, rent free, installation of dual rear wheels on the truck and additional axe, etc."

1951, Oct 8 - BoC Minutes - Board discussed "the matter of the complete failure of the fire truck pump" and "replacement at a cost of from $500.00 to $600.00." Because of limited funds, the County Auditor did not recommend purchasing a new pump. They recommended referring to a Board committee to "investigate the trouble with the Housing Authority Officials, from whom the truck was recently purchased, with the view of obtaining some relief through that source." It was then recommended "the sale of a unit of County owned [real] property and ear-mark the proceeds for the use of the fire department expense, purchase of equipment, maintenance, etc." and that the Board be given a list and statement of the County's rental property. Approved.

1951, Oct 29 - BoC Minutes - Board approved purchase of 150 pound "pressure pumping unit" for county fire truck, to replace the "worn-out unit" , at cost of $175.00.

1951, Dec 10 - BoC Minutes - Minutes mention placing a radio receiver in the county fire truck, "same as on the Deputies cars," for when Wrightsboro and Seagrave "calls in for help to fight a fire, immediate contact can be had with the County Fireman which will provide closer cooperation for a better service." Approved.

Request For Part-Time Relief

1951, Dec 31 - BoC Minutes - Earl Borroughs is called the County Fire Chief. He requested that the part-time relief fireman be put on full-time basis. Board tabled the request for study.

1952, Apr 7 - BoC Minutes - Board ordered that, in the event the county calls City Fire Chief J. Ludie Croom to aid in fighting a fire, "he shall take command immediately upon arrival and direct the same."

1951, May 5 - BoC Minutes - The question of repairing the county fire truck for approximately $300 or "purchase new equipment" was discussed.

1952, Jul 7 - BoC Minutes - Mr. R. A. Shaw appeared to offer suggestions on County Forest Fire Control. He cited a fire in the forest south of Wilmington last Friday and Saturday that burned a large area. He said that with the small county fire equipment the fire could not have been brought under control without outside help from other communities. He urged that the County have "some kind of agreement for State Cooperative Forest Fire Control."

Mr. O'Shields said that, due to budget shortfalls, the Board should do one of two things: find finds to support an adequate county FD, or make funds available to interested communities with FDs to supplement their efforts.

Also moved that the Assistant Forest Fire Warden at Whiteville be asked to attend the next meeting, for a discussion of the matter.

1952, Jul 28 - BoC Minutes - The Wrightsville Fire Chief presented a resolution adopted at a meeting of 35 citizens representing the seven communities of the county, opposing the participation in the North Carolina State Forestry protection Service, and asked that any funds the county could use for fire protection be "first applied to the protection of homes and industries." The chief was accompanied by his Assistant Chief and two people from Winter Park. The County Auditor "then reported on fire departments of four other counties." After further discussion, Board approved that $5,000 be "set-up" in the 1952-1953 budget for rural fire protection "to be used in cooperation with the rural VFDs.

Also, Board approved payment of $100 to Winter Park VFD for "purchase of equipment in consideration of services rendered the County by the Department."

County Fire Department Ends - Rural Fire Protection Continues

1952, Jul 31 - BoC Minutes - Board "authorized the payment of half month's salary to Mr. E. G. Burroughs, Chief of the County's Fire Department stationed at Maffitt Village, thus terminating his services with the County, and to notify Mr. B. Humphrey Marshall, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Wilmington, that the County will have no further use of the garage and Fire Chief Dwelling at Maffitt Village after this date."

1952, Aug 25 - BoC Minutes - Delegation from Ogdon, Peace (?), Harnett township, comprised of three people, appear and discuss fire protection and request "funs to aid them to acquire the necessary equipment to provide that service." Wrightsboro VFD member appears and suggests county loan two tanks on trailer to the group, and "outlined plans formulated so far for county-wide protection."

1952, Sep 15 - BoC Minutes - Board unanimously adopted a County Fire Protection Program, recommended by the five organized VFDs plus two "in the process of organizing." It included (a.) county will match $200 of raised money, for communities intending to organize a VFD and upon recommendation of the Inspection Committee, (b.) departments that obtain and maintain a truck to the committee requirements will be paid $50 per month. For departments with trailer-mounted equipment, they will be paid $15 per month, (c.) maximum payments to any one FD for the first year will be $65. Balance, if any, left in the fund at the end of the year will be equally divided among the operating FDs, (d.) each FD will protect their respective area, and agree to furnish equipment and manpower to other areas in case of emergency, as determined by Sheriff's Department or SHP. If neither is available, the Fire Chief of the requested/affected FD "shall determine emergency," (e) Inspection Committee members and duties, (f) possible participating FDs are Ogden, Castle Hayne, Myrtle Grove, Seagate, Wrightsboro, Winter Park, and Maffitt Village. Other VFDs "can be brought in" if they can meet the requirements by October 1952.


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