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The Asheville Fire Department was formally organized in 1882. After a fatal fire on Vance Street, a group of citizens demanded action from town officials. A hand truck and equipment were purchased and the volunteer Hook and Ladder Company #1 was born. Two years later, Hose Company #1 was formed, also hand-drawn.
The first horse-drawn hose carriage was introduced in 1887. The first horse-drawn ladder truck was added by 1891. Motor apparatus arrived in 1912. The first fire engines included a pair of Seagrave combination chemical and hose trucks, and a Seagrave combination chemical and service ladder truck. The department was fully motorized by 1917.
The volunteers were partly paid in the 1900s, with four fully paid personnel on the roster by 1913. The entire department became fully paid in April 1924, with six companies operating at three stations. This was a prosperous decade in Asheville and the last decade of growth before the Great Depression. Six new stations were opened between 1919 and 1929, five of which are still standing.
Historian Mike Legeros explores these and other old stations, along with the history of the Asheville, Biltmore Village, and Biltmore Forest fire departments.
417 Haywood Road
Old Station 3
421 Haywood Road
Old Station 4
300 Merrimon Avenue
Old Station 5
10 Biltmore Plaza
Temporary Station 1
87 Haywood Street
City Hall photo courtesy North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina Library at Chapel Hill. Station 2 photo courtesy Asheville Fire Department
Other former fire stations included the
original City Hall on the east side of Court Square. The
engine house was attached to the north side of the 1880s building.
Larger facilities were provided when the second City Hall
opened on East Pack Square
(above left). Built in 1892, the combination City Hall and Market
House operated with a
full-time crew beginning April 15, 1924. The building served as a
fire station until the Municipal Building
opened in March 1926. The building was demolished starting the
By 1917, a colored fire company operated from a hose house at the corner of Hazzard and Pine Streets southeast of the downtown area. The ten volunteers utilized a hand-drawn hose reel with 600 feet of hose. They protected a primarily residential area that also included several churches and school buildings.
The original Station 2 on Bartlett Street (above right) was built by 1923. It operated with a full-time crew beginning April 1, 1924. The first company was called Hose 3, then Engine 3. Around 1925, the company was renamed Engine 2. The single-story, single-bay station included individual bedrooms, a feature not repeated for several decades. In 1975, Station 2 was relocated to 315 Livingston Street. The old station was later demolished.
The original Station 8 occupied a house at 771 Tunnel Road from 1960 until a dedicated facility at 900 Tunnel Road opened in February 1966. The house was subsequently used as a county ambulance station and later demolished. The original Station 9 at 749 Fairview Road also occupied a house from 1960 until a dedicated facility opened on the same lot in October 1967. During the year-long construction, Engine 9 was housed at Station 5.
The second Station 4 opened at Skyland Fire Department's main station at the corner of Hendersonville and Miller Roads in 1988, after the facility was annexed by the city. In 1998, a new Station 4 was constructed at the same location. Addressed 9 Miller Drive, it serves as both Asheville Station 4 and Buncombe County Station 21. The old station was demolished.
The Municipal Building at 10
Court Plaza officially opened on March 8, 1926. Over 15,000
people attended the ceremonies at the $100,000 structure. The
four-story building housed the
fire and police departments, a police court, a city jail, and the City
Market in the rear. The fire station first housed four fire
companies, two engines, an aerial ladder, and a service ladder. The
living areas included dormitories (with 28 beds), reading rooms, a
club room, and a kitchen.
In the late 1930s, the City Market relocated to North Lexington Avenue. In 1941, the fire department expanded into part of the old market. Personnel built a maintenance garage with a vehicle entrance on the Market Street side of the structure. By 1956, the remaining old market area was used by the county welfare department.
The interior of the Municipal Building was extensively remodeled beginning in 1998. The $11 million project expanded and improved facilities for both the fire and police departments. The emergency communications center was also moved from its basement location to the third floor.
Station 1 presently houses Engine 1, Ladder 1, Rescue 1, Tac 1 (CAFS unit), and old Engine 5, a 1927 American LaFrance pumper, exiting Court Plaza; Chief 4 (Division Chief) exiting Market Street, and Tanker 1 exiting the rear. The building also houses the offices of Fire Administration, Fire Prevention, Safety, and Training.
Biltmore Forest police and former fire station, 355 Vanderbilt Road
Biltmore Village was created
by George Vanderbilt in the late 1890s as a model rental community
to his nearby Biltmore Estate. All buildings were owned by the Vanderbilt
Estate. The Biltmore Fire Department, also known as the Biltmore
Volunteer Fire Department, was formed around 1910. Within seven
years, it had ten volunteers operating a hose wagon and a
hose reel. A small fire station was located on Brook Street between Plaza and Swan streets.
Following the devastating July 1916 flood, the village was sold in 1920. The fire department remained in operation, later obtaining a 1926 Ahrens Fox NS-4 pumper and relocating to a larger engine house in the rear of the Biltmore Office building. In 1929, the department disbanded after the city assumed fire protection. The city also took ownership of the Ahrens Fox pumper.
Biltmore Forest, located south of Biltmore Village, was created in the early 1920s as a planned residential community. In 1923, the town services were designed and included a fire department. Early apparatus included a 1929 Packard/American LaFrance Type 91 fire engine. The combination fire and police station (above) was located on Vanderbilt Road.
By 1935, the Biltmore Forest Fire Department consisted of five paid men and 20 volunteers. In later decades, the department operated a 1959 Ford F-750/American LaFrance 750/500 and a circa 1986 Ford C-1000/Grumman.
The fire department ceased operation in 1995. The fire department included both Public Safety Officers who were combination police/firefighters, and five paid firefighters. The town's Police Chief was also the Fire Chief.
From 1995 to 2013, the Asheville Fire Department provided contracted fire protection to the town. The Skyland Fire Department is current contracted, and is constructing a fire station at 7 Valley Springs Road as a joint venture between SFD and Biltmore Forest.
A version of this article was published on FireNews.net on November 13, 2006. This article was updated with revised Biltmore Forest Fire Department information in July 2014.
Copyright 2023 by Michael J. Legeros