Raleigh/Wake County Fire Departments

Line of Duty Deaths


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Robert L. Battle Raleigh (Rescue Squad) April 23, 1959
Todd Blanchard Eastern Wake July 14, 2005
Patrick Dougherty Garner April 7, 1993
Larry Fanning Garner August 2, 2006
Herman Jones Raleigh January 22, 2008
Lewis B. Nuckles  Wake Forest March 4, 1982
Norwood Massengill Fairgrounds February 10, 1971
Paul Mimms Raleigh April 20, 1965
Robert P. Nordman Northern Wake December 17, 2018
Jon Schondelmayer Swift Creek December 18, 2013
Vernon Smith Raleigh March 10, 1956
W. Keith Tessinear Raleigh August 29, 2019
Vernon Thompson Cary June 16, 1960


W. Keith Tessinear
Raleigh Fire Department
August 29, 2019



Assistant Chief of Training Wallace Keith Tessinear, 55, died of occupational cancer. He was diagnosed with lymphoma on June 1, 2018. He passed away fourteen months later. On November 27, 2019, the North Carolina Industrial Commission recognized his passing as a line-of-duty death.

Tessinear entered the department on February 13, 1991. He rose through the ranks, promoted to Firefighter First Class (1994), Lieutenant (1997), Captain (2001), and Battalion Chief (2007). He was appointed as a Division Chief on January 14, 2012, first serving in Operations and then assigned to Training .

He was appointed Assistant Chief on March 31, 2015, first assigned to Services, followed by the Office of the Fire Marshal where he served as the city Fire Marshal starting on July 13, 2015. He was later reassigned to the Training division. He had served 28.6 years at the time of his death.

Funeral services were held on September 1 at the Chapel at Bright Funeral Home in Wake Forest, with burial at Clyde's Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery in Wendell on the same day. Fire department members Lowell Smith, Dennis Marshal, Jerry Pace (ret.), Marvin Brooks (ret.), Raymond Harrell (ret.) and Randall Wright (ret.) served as pallbearers.

Chief Tessinear was the brother-in-law of Battalion Chief David Whitley, the uncle of Firefighter Justin B. Hales, and the nephew of retired Lieutenant Bobby L. Smith (ret. 1977), and thus related to Smith's son-in-law retired Asst. Chief Garry Spain (ret. 2015), his son Firefighter Coulton G. Spain, and Garry's brother retired Division Chief Barry Spain (ret. 2016).


Robert P. Nordman
Northern Wake Fire Department
December 17, 2018



Captain Robert P. Nordman, 48, died of occupation-related cancer on December 17, 2018. He was assigned to the department's Risk Management Division.

He had served as a Captain at Northern Wake since the department's creation in 2017, as a merger of Bay Leaf and Stony Hill fire departments. He previously served as a Captain at Stony Hill since 2004.

He had over thirty years of fire service experience in Wake County, as member of Northern Wake, Stony Hill, Wendell, and Apex fire departments.

Nordham was a veteran in the United States Navy, who served three tours during Operation Desert Storm. He was survived by a wife, two sons, and a daughter, and a step-daughter.

A memorial service was conducted on January 5, 2019, at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh.


Jon F. Schondelmayer
Swift Creek Fire Department
December 18, 2013



Firefighter Jon F. Schondelmayer, 44, died after being found unresponsive at his home, while working with the Swift Creek Fire Department. He had begun to feel ill while at the fire station. At about 11:30 a.m., he told his crew that he was going home to get some medicine and return to the station.

His crew became concerned when he left and called him on his cell phone to see how he was doing. At the same time, a Swift Creek firefighter was sent to his residence. While on the telephone, Schondelmayer said that didn't feel well and needed assistance.

When the other firefighter arrived at the residence, he found Schondelmayer unresponsive. The Swift Creek firefighter began rendering medical aid and contacted his company at the fire station for assistance. Emergency responders worked for 50 minutes to try to revive Schondelmayer, but he passed away from a nature and cause of injury still to be determined and reported.

Schondelmayer was also a Captain in Cary, and had just come off of a busy shift  that included several emergency response runs. He was a 19-year veteran of the Cary Fire Department, and had worked with Swift Creek for 18 years. His memorial service was conducted on Monday, December 23, at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary. Following the service, his body was carried to Brown-Wynne Funeral Home in Raleigh.

View funeral photos by Legeros


Herman S. Jones
Raleigh Fire Department
January 22, 2008



Lieutenant Herman S. Jones, 58, died after suffering an apparent heart attack.. He was on duty Friday, January 18, at Station 10, when he began to experience chest pains. He was transported to WakeMed and then to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill. He died at the hospital on January 22, 2008.

Jones entered the department on May 5, 1980. He was promoted to the ranks of Firefighter First Class on June 15, 1983, and to Lieutenant on June 16, 2001. He had served 27.7 years at the time of his death.

He was buried following a church service on Saturday, January 26, at Juniper Level Baptist Church in Raleigh. Fire department members Ronald Ricks, Joseph Callender, Patrick Canady, Gregory Buxton, George Jones Sr., and Michael Barnes served as pallbearers.

Read NFFF memorial entry.

View funeral photos by Legeros.


Larry W. Fanning
Garner Fire Department
August 2, 2006


Firefighter Larry Wayne Fanning, 57, died at his home of a heart attack, several hours after working standby at the station during a medical call. He was a 16-year veteran of the Garner Fire Department, including serving as their corporate President, and a 38-year veteran of the fire service. His funeral was held August 10, in Dublin, VA.

Read NFFF memorial entry.



Todd A. Blanchard
Eastern Wake Fire Department
July 14, 2005



Firefighter Todd Alan Blanchard, 31, died from injuries suffered at a fire at the intersection of Turnipseed Road and Major Slade Road in the unincorporated Knightdale area. Blanchard was one of a three-member crew returning to the scene of an earlier tree fire. They arrived at 12:42 a.m. and applied water to the smoldering area, and then approached the tree to examine the smoldering area more closely. As the crew walked toward the tree, a limb approximately two-and-a-half feet in diameter broke and struck Blanchard. The two firefighters with Blanchard removed the limb and began CPR when they determined that the firefighter's breathing and heart had stopped. Paramedics arrived at the scene and initiated advanced life support  treatment.

He was transported to WakeMed and declared dead about 2:30 a.m. The cause of death was massive chest trauma. Blanchard had worked as a full-time firefighter for Eastern Wake Fire Department for approximately two years. Memorial services were held at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in downtown Raleigh on  Saturday, July 16. Over a mile of fire and EMS vehicles from Wake, Cumberland, Durham, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, and Wayne counties escorted mourners from Eastern Wake Station 1 on Poole Road to the church.

Read NFFF memorial entry.

View funeral photos by Legeros.



Patrick J. Dougherty
Garner Fire Department
April 8, 1993



Firefighter Patrick J. "Pat" Dougherty, 37, died of a heart attack during salvage operations at a house fire at 516 Poplar Drive on April 7, 1993. At approximately 11:45 p.m., he complained of feeling week.  He collapsed while being examined by EMS personnel and was pronounced dead at Wake Medical Center of a massive heart attack, at 1:10 a.m.

Funeral services were held on April 10 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Garner, followed by burial at Montlawn Memorial Park in Raleigh. Garner (E1, E2), Bay Leaf (E258), Durham Highway (E2), Fairgrounds (E198), Fuquay-Varina (E2, E5), Morrisville (E2) New Hope (E1), Six Forks (E121), Wake Forest (E63), and Yrac (E293) fire departments participated in the procession.

Dougherty, owner of an auto repair business, was a volunteer member of the Garner Fire Department from August 1988 to June 1992, and had rejoined in January 1993.

Note: Legeros has previously cited April 7 as the death date, in some places.

Read NFFF memorial entry.



Lewis B. Nuckles
Wake Forest Fire Department
March 4, 1982




Firefighter Lewis B. Nuckles, 52, died on March 4, 1982, after suffering a heart attack during water shuttle training evolutions at Wake Forest Plaza on Brooks Street, the current location of the The Wake Forest Renaissance Centre For the Arts. The time of his collapse is TBD. He died at Raleigh Community Hospital at 10:13 p.m., hours after the incident. He was a volunteer member of the department. By day, he was an assistant manager for Brinks.

To honor his memory, the department created the Lewis B. Nuckles Award that year, to recognize an volunteer member each year, regardless of rank. The first award was given to Hubert Denton at the department's Christmas dinner that year. The award is still awarded every year, and a plaque at the station lists all of the names.



Norwood C.  Massengill
Fairgrounds Fire Department
February 10, 1971



Assistant Chief Norwood C. "Dick" Massengill, 57, died of a heart attack while returning from a false alarm on February 10, 1971.

Massengill was operating the fire apparatus when it collided with trees in a residential yard on Grand Avenue about 2:23 p.m. He was found dead upon arrival of the Raleigh Fire Department rescue squad.

Funeral services were held on February 12 at Apex Funeral Home, with burial at Montlawn Memorial Park in Raleigh  the same day. Massengill, a mechanic, was a charter member of the volunteer Fairgrounds Fire Department, organized in 1961. He was formerly a member of the Western Boulevard Fire Department.

Photo from 1958 group photo of WBFD, courtesy of Elaine Massengill Kurtz.

View historical photos of WBFD.


Paul A. Mimms
Raleigh Fire Department
April 20, 1965



Firefighter II Paul A. "Pallie" Mimms, 41, died of an apparent heart attack while operating a pumper at a commercial structure fire, at  1908 Hillsboro Street. He fainted at the pump panel and was pronounced dead on arrival at Rex Hospital. The fire at Norden Laboratories Incorporated was discovered about 12:15 a.m. Mimms was the driver of Engine 5.

Funeral services were held on April 22 at Overby Mortuary Chapel in Raleigh, with burial at Montlawn Memorial Park the same day.

Mimms entered the department on July 16, 1951. He had served 13.8 years at the time of his death. His brother Harry retired as a Captain in 1977, serving from November 24, 1952, to March 1, 1977. Photo courtesy Joe Mimms. 

View virtual museum page.


Vernon L. Thompson
Cary Fire Department
June 16, 1960


Firefighter Vernon Lee Thompson, 28, was killed and Firefighter Willis Edward (Billy) Henderson, 32, was injured when their 1954 department-built, 4,500-gallon, tractor-drawn tanker overturned near Meredith College on June 16, 1960. The accident occurred about 10:00 a.m., while they were turning from US 1 onto a service road that ran between college property and the State College animal husbandry farm.

Both were thrown from the open-cab apparatus. Thompson was pinned under the cab and died after gasoline leaking from the fuel tank under the seat was apparently ignited by an electrical short. Raleigh firefighters and other rescue workers spent nearly two hours recovering Thompson's body. The first wrecker sent to the scene was unable to raise the truck. A larger, second wrecker was called and lifted the cab enough for Thompson's body to be removed.

Both Thompson and Henderson were state employees working at nearby Camp Polk prison farm and were en route to extinguish the rekindling of a trash fire near the prison dump from the night before. Henderson was driving about 15 miles an hour when the accident occurred. Pavement markings stretched about 120 feet, created by the pressure of the heavy, slowing truck. The cab of the tanker was destroyed; the apparatus was not returned to service.

Funeral services were held on June 18 at Cary Baptist Church, with burial at Cary Cemetery the same day. Thompson was a volunteer member of the Cary Fire Department.

View historical photos of the accident.


Robert L. Battle
April 23, 1959
Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad, Inc.


Volunteer Robert Battle, 45, drowned in the Cape Fear River near Battle Dam, about five miles below Buckhorn Dam, while searching for the body of a Fuquay Springs man, who had apparently drowned the day before when his fishing boat overturned two miles or so above Buckhorn Dam.

Battle had entered the water to swim out and investigate an object on the back of an overturned boat, spotted by a Wildlife Commission plane being used in the search. Battle was unable to make it back to shore and drowned in the river.

He had a rope around his waist, but the rope wasn't long enough to reach the found object, and he had requested that his fellow squad members let go of the rope. When he became exhausted on the return trip, he tied himself to a willow tree in the river, but was apparently too tired to hold his head out of the water.

Battle was an employee of the Wake County Sheriff's Department and had worked as a night jailer for four years. He had previously served as a Raleigh police officer.

He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, following a service on Saturday, April 25.

The Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad was organized in 1953, and housed at Station 1 and staffed by a full-time fire department driver.



Vernon J. Smith
Raleigh Fire Department
March 10, 1956


Driver Vernon J. Smith, 44, died at Rex Hospital, succumbing to injuries occurred November 14, 1952, while operating Engine 6. The 1926 American LaFrance pumper, being operated as a reserve unit, overturned while returning from a call at the sharp curve where Brooks Avenue turns into Lewis Farm Road.

The 1:00 p.m. accident also pinned Captain James T. White under the wreckage and injured the three firefighters hanging onto the tailboard. The accident was blamed on a broken brake lever and the City Council immediately approved funding for a new pumper, to retire the other 1926 reserve pumper as soon as possible.

The other firefighters recovered from their injuries, while Smith underwent 29 operations before his death. He worked in light-duty roles as his health permitted, including as dispatcher.

Funeral services were held on March 12 at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, with burial at Montlawn Cemetery the same day. Fire Chief Jack B. Keeter, Assistant Fire Chief R. Lee Matthews, and fire department members James M. Burnette, James T. White, Herbert E. Partin, and Jack T. Wall served as pallbearers.

Smith joined the Raleigh Fire Department on July 17, 1942. He had served 13.7 years at the time of his death. Photo courtesy Harold Smith. 

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View historical photos and other remembrances.


This page was last updated on June 17, 2021.


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