08/25/11 646 W, 1 I - + 10 - 7 Hurricane Hazel in Raleigh, 1954

In 1954, a much smaller version of the Raleigh Fire Department faced Hurricane Hazel. Their seven engine companies and two truck companies responded to dozens-- well, a couple dozen-- calls over the course of a weekend. It was one of their busiest weekends, said the newspapers.  For four decades, Hazel was recognized as the benchmark of tropical weather in this part of the country. Hurricane Fran then took that crown in 1996. What did the fire department response look like, when Hazel blew through Raleigh?

From the Monday, October 18, 1954 edition of the Raleigh Times:

Raleigh firemen experienced one of their busiest weekends as a result of damage wrought by Hurricane Hazel.

The following telephone calls were answered on Friday:

- 8:05 a.m., 23 Bragg Street, electric wire, no damage;
- 10:04 a.m., 1206 Park Drive, rug on fire, damage not estimated;
- 11:30 a.m., 20 E. Cabarrus Street, electric wires, no damage;
- 1:40 p.m., 714 Glenwood Avenue, electric wires, no damage:
- 2:05 p.m., Lenior and Salisbury, electric wires, no damage;
- 2:35 p.m., Colleton Road, house, damage not estimated;
- 3 p.m., 500 S. Salisbury Street, tree on auto, damage no estimated;
- 3:55 p.m., Carolina Buck Company, use of ladder needed;
- 6:40 p.m., 400 block Oberlin Road, electric wires, no damage;
- 7:15 p.m., 908 Fayetteville Street, oil stove, no damage;
- 8:40 p.m., Cabarrus and Cutler, electric wires, no damage;
- 9 p.m., S. East Street, electric wires, no damage;
- 10:15 p.m., 500 block Salisbury Street, tree on fire, no damage;
- 10:53 p.m., 128 N. Harrington Street, inspection;
- 11:30 p.m., Bloodworth and Edenton Street, inspection

Calls on Saturday included:

- Box 313 alarm at 7.31 a.m., Manly and Pugh Streets, oil stove, no damage;
- 2:10 p.m., Mullins Lane, electric wires, no damage;
- Box 241 alarm at 5:32 p.m., Martin and State Streets, oil stove, damage not estimated;
- 7:17 p.m., 2931 Wade Avenue, electric wires, no damaged;
- 8:39 p.m., 109 N. Boylan Avenue, electric wires, no damage;
- 8:46 p.m., same as above;
- 11:36 p.m., Franklin and Person Streets, brush and smudge pot on fire, no damage.
Sunday's calls included:

- 2:45 a.m., 2302 Byrd Street, electric motor, no damage;
- 9:05 a.m., 319 S. Dawson, inspection;
- 10:12 a.m., Sawyer Lane, chimney, no damage;
- 1:40 p.m., 400 block Peace, bus on fire, no damage;
- 12:41 to 421 N. Bloodworth Street, look for lost child;
- 2:52 p.m., to 13 Maiden Lane, tree about to fall, no damage.

As for the size of the Raleigh Fire Department in 1954:

- In 1950, RFD had 6 stations protecting 10.9 square miles and 65,679 residents
- Starting in 1950, RFD had two shifts, working 24 on, 24 off
- That same year, 83 new personnel were added.
- In 1954, city had six stations with 7 engines, 1 aerial, and 1 service truck.

By comparison, Raleigh FD in 2011:

- 27 stations protecting 142.902 square miles and 388,926 residents
- Staff of 568
- Twenty six stations with 28 engines, eight trucks, three rescues, four Battalion Chiefs, one Division Chief, various Haz-Mat and USAR units. Approximately 35,000 calls per year.

Hurricane Hazel Background:

October 15, 1954: Hurricane Hazel, the eighth Atlantic hurricane that year, makes landfall in Brunswick County, N.C. Storm surge at coast is greatest in state's recorded history, striking at exact time of highest lunar tide of year. Coastal regions receive some of most destructive winds ever, with estimates in several locations of 150 mph gusts.  At Raleigh-Durham Airport, gusts to 90 mph are recorded around 1:30 p.m. All told, nineteen people are killed and over 200 injured; 15,000 homes and structures destroyed; 39,000 structures damaged; 30 counties with major damages; and estimated $136 million in property losses. When combined with other states, Canada and Haiti, numbers climb to 600+ dead and estimated $350 million in property damage. Source: North Carolina's Hurricane History, Third Edition by Jay Barnes, UNC Press, 2001

A version of this posting was published on FireNews.net on September 26, 2003, after Hurricane Isabel passed through the Carolinas.

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