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Then and Now #5: Triad Fire Departments

Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford, and Randolph counties

Welcome to a feature where historian Mike Legeros presents early twentieth-century summaries of North Carolina fire departments as recorded by the Sanborn Map Company for their fire insurance maps. In addition to detailed information about streets, buildings, and water supplies, the cartographers also recorded fire protection information including personnel, apparatus, and alarm systems.

Hook and ladder trucks were common in many cities and towns, as hand- and horse-drawn hose wagons (and reels) were not equipped for carrying ladders, hooks, and other such equipment. These were "straight trucks" that lacked aerial apparatus and also hand- or horse-drawn. Some municipalities had dedicated hook and ladder companies and were sometimes divided along racial lines.

With the appearance of motorized equipment, aerial apparatus began appearing in larger cities. Larger municipalities also utilized motorized non-aerial hook and ladder trucks, now called "city service trucks" or simply "service trucks." When equipped with a chemical tank, such trucks were called "combination service trucks."


Asheboro's 1923 American LaFrance. Courtesy Asheboro Fire Department

Asheboro, Randolph County
April 1922
22 volunteers. Fire station on Church street at Hoover Street. One Republic motor truck with 40-gallon chemical tank and 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Fire alarm on notification by telephone, WaterWorks whistle signals threatened quadrant. Population 3,000.

Today
Two fire stations, six pieces of fire apparatus, and 46 career members protecting approximately 16 square miles. Population 22,709.


Greensboro's Eagle Hose Company, circa 1920

Greensboro, Guilford County
1919

Chief, Assistant chief, and 14 men, fully paid. 65 volunteers. Four trained horses. Four stations. Engine Company No. 1, 108 West Gaston Street: Three paid men, 15 volunteers. One American LaFrance triple combination motor truck with 750 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, 1,100 feet 2 1/2-inch hose, and 12-foot and 33-foot ladders. 600-feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Eagle Hose Company No. 7 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 at 207-209 South Davie Street: Four paid men, 30 volunteers. Two horses. One American LaFrance triple combination motor engine with 350 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, and 200 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One aerial hook and ladder truck. One American LaFrance steamer in reserve. One hose wagon in reserve with 600 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Southside Hose Company No. 4 at 411 East Bragg Street. Two paid men, 10 volunteers. One American LaFrance triple combination motor engine with 350 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose, and 30 feet of ladders. One third-size American LaFrance steamer in reserve. 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. West End Engine Company No. 5 at 549 South Mendenhall Street: Two paid men, 10 volunteers. One White triple combination motor truck with 500 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, and 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. 1,000 feet of hose in reserve. 8,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose total. Gamewell fire alarm system with 36 "break glass" boxes. One repeating box with nine additional imaginary boxes. Bell alarm. Population 34,000.

Today
Nineteen fire stations, 53 pieces of fire apparatus, and 423 career members protecting 118.97 square miles. Population 235,262.


Combination chemical and hose wagon. Courtesy High Point Fire Department

High Point, Guilford County
July 1917

Three companies, 23 volunteers, five paid men. Three stations. Hose Company No. 1 at 112 Jordan Street: Eight volunteers. Two paid men. One 40 HP automobile hose wagon. 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Four three-gallon chemical extinguishers. Scaling ladders. Motor Hose and Chemical Company No. 2 on Rankin Street: Seven volunteers. Three paid men. One Seagrave 75 HP automobile combination hose wagon with 40-gallon chemical tank, 175 feet chemical hose, 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose, four five-gallon chemical extinguishers, and scaling ladders. 1,100-feet 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve. Hose Company No. 3 on Taylor Street west of West Green Street: Eight men, three that sleep at station. One horse. One hose wagon with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One hose wagon in reserve with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Gamewell fire alarm system with 27 boxes. Population 15,000.

Today
Fourteen fire stations, 28 pieces of fire apparatus, and 224 members protecting 54 square miles. Population 89,203.

Kernersville, Forsyth County
February 1915
One 50-gallon chemical extinguisher on wheels stored at City Hall, 42 Mountain Street. No other fire equipment. Population 1,200.

Today
Four fire stations, eight pieces of fire apparatus, 65 career members, and three part-time members protecting approximately 16 square miles. Population 20,494.


Lexington Reel Company, circa 1910

Lexington, Davidson County
March 1913

Chief and 32 partly paid men divided into two companies. Two stations. Station No. 1 beside 513 2nd Avenue West: One paid driver always on duty. One horse. One one-horse hose wagon with 800 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose and two-gallon extinguisher. One one-horse hook and ladder truck with 85-feet of ladders and two-gallon extinguisher. Station No. 2 at 42 9th Avenue East: One horse. One one-horse hose wagon with 700-feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose and two-gallon extinguisher. 2,000 feet 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber-lined hose total, 1,500 feet in good condition, 500 feet in fair condition. Alarm given by telephone to pumping station, companies summoned by whistle. Population 6,000.

Today
Three fire stations, eight pieces of fire apparatus, and 48 career members protecting approximately 17 square miles. Population 20,492.


Thomasville's 1922 American LaFrance. Courtesy Thomasville Fire Department

Thomasville, Davidson County
August 1913

One chief and four volunteer companies, 10 men each. Four hose carts with 250-feet 2 1/2-inch hose each, stationed conveniently about town including 100 block of North Main Street. One hook and ladder truck just arrived, location forthcoming. Alarm by bell on tower and telephone to pumping station. Population 4,500.

Today
Four fire stations, seven pieces of fire apparatus, and 61 career members protecting 18 square miles. Population 25,562.


Winston-Salem Fire Department, 1920. Courtesy Collection of Old Salem

Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
1917

Two companies with 17 paid men and four companies with 60 volunteers. Ten horses, four on call. Six stations and one hose house. Engine Company No. 1 at 117 West 8th Street: Eight paid men. One American LaFrance Type 12 triple combination automobile truck with 700 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, 200-feet 3/4-inch chemical hose, 800 feet 2 1/2-inch hose, and two three-gallon chemical extinguishers. Engine Company No. 2 at City Hall, corner North Main and East 4th Streets: Nine paid men. One American LaFrance Type 12 triple combination automobile truck with 750 gallon-per-minute pump, 40-gallon chemical tank, 200 feet 3/4-inch chemical hose, 1,000 feet 2 1/2-inch hose, two three-gallon chemical extinguishers, and two oxygen helmets. Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 at City Hall, corner North Main and East 4th Streets: 16 volunteer men, one sleeps at station. One horse-drawn 65-foot aerial truck. Two horses. Liberty Fire Company No. 3 at 1510 North Liberty Street: 15 members, two paid drivers. Four horses on call. One hose wagon with 750 feet 2 1/2-inch hose and two three-gallon chemical extinguishers. One third-class LaFrance steamer, 500 gallon-per-minute, also listed with Company No. 4. Engine Company No. 4 at 301 South Liberty Street: 15 volunteer men, two sleep at station. Four horses, not at station. One hose wagon with 750 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. One third-class LaFrance steamer, 500 gallon-per-minute, also listed with Company No. 3. West Side Hose Company No. 5 at 411 South Green Street: 15 volunteer men. Two horses. One hose wagon with 500 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Hose house on Bruce Street north of Wallace Street: One hose reel with 300 feet 2 1/2-inch hose. Gamewell fire alarm system, 30 boxes. Population 40,000.

Today
Eighteen fire stations, 34 pieces of fire apparatus, 328 career members, and one part-time member protecting 132.2 square miles. Population 193,922.

More Photos


Rough and Ready Fire Company of Salem. Courtesy Collection of Old Salem


Salem hose wagon. Courtesy Collection of Old Salem


Winston Hook and Ladder Company in front of Main Hall, Salem College, circa 1890. Courtesy Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection


Greensboro fire companies, circa 1890s. Courtesy Greensboro History Museum


Greensboro's Excelsior Hose Company, circa 1890. Courtesy Greensboro History Museum


Early High Point firefighters. Courtesy High Point Fire Department


Winston steamer in front of Jones Hotel, circa 1900. Courtesy Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection


Winston-Salem Fire Department, 1920. Courtesy Collection of Old Salem


Lexington Fire Company No. 2 in 1922


Greensboro Fire Department, circa 1926. Courtesy Greensboro Fire Department


High Point's American LaFrance aerial ladder at Sheraton Hotel. Courtesy High Point Fire Department


High Point's American LaFrance service truck. Courtesy High Point Fire Department


Asheboro's 1923 American LaFrance in a later decade. Courtesy Asheboro Fire Department

Map

Why Isn't Your City or Town Listed?
Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are available online from NC LIVE for 162 communities in 83 of North Carolina's 100 counties. Most cities and towns were surveyed several times over several decades between the 1880s and the 1950s. Of those maps in the public domain, copyright 1922 or earlier, only 100-some communities in 64 counties had fire equipment or fire departments. See below link to view later-era maps.


References

Guide to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
North Carolina State Demographics

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps via NC LIVE
Requires password available from many local libraries. After logging into NC LIVE, click Browse Resources and select Maps

Related Links

Asheboro Fire Department
Greensboro Fire Department
High Point Fire Department

Kernersville Fire Department
Lexington Fire Department
Thomasville Fire Department
Winston-Salem Fire Department

The Series
Then and Now #1: Down East Fire Departments
Then and Now #2: Northwest Fire Departments
Then and Now #3: Charlotte West Fire Departments
Then and Now #4: Triangle Fire Departments
Then and Now #5: Greensboro West Fire Departments
Then and Now #6: Fayetteville to Goldsboro Fire Departments
Then and Now #7: Warrenton West Fire Departments
Then and Now #8: West Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #9: Northeast Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #10: Western Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #11: Northeast Central Fire Departments
Then and Now #12: Dunn to Pinehurst Fire Departments


Note

A version of this article was published on FireNews.net
on June 23, 2005.

Coming next
Cumberland, Robeson, Sampson, and Wayne counties.

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