Raleigh Fire Department History - 1911 Fire Protection Report

Created April 5, 2009

The National Board of Fire Underwriters report of 1911 numbered 21 pages and was addressed to Major James I. Johnson. The authors were J. H. Howland, T. C. B. Snell, and C. W. Wheelock, board engineers.

The water system summary included "the contract with the water company, the ownership of the water supply, the organization of the water company, the general outline of the system, a general outline of the supply works, descriptions of the filter house, the clear-water reservoir, the pumping the station, the water tower, the consumption of water in Raleigh, meters and service connections, pressures, the distributing system, mains, gate values, the hydrants, drainage, [and] fire-flow tests."

The report summarized the fire department, then provided "a report on the fire alarm system, a report on the fire department auxiliaries, a report on the building department, a report on explosives and inflammables, and reports on laws and ordinances, local conditions, electricity, organization and control, and conflagration hazards."

About the water system it said "Raleigh has a most inadequate water supply for fire protection, that the single main has not capacity to furnish a needed supply. The conditions described show that quick and vigorous action should be taken to remedy the deplorable conditions which are declared to exist, a matter in which the Board of Alderman should act without delay."

The report told of fire flow tests and continued "In general, the poor results are due to insufficient carrying capacity of the supply main, the very pronounced lack of support to mains of small diameter and the serious effects of poor grid ironing." On the subject of the contract between the city and the water company, it said "from a standpoint of fire protection supply, the contract between the city and water company is deficient; the size and number of fire streams guaranteed are entirely inadequate for the control of serious fires."

About the pumping station, it said "in the absence of a large elevated reservoir, the city is entirely dependent upon the pumping station for its fire protection supply, and the present number of pumping units is such that serious interruption to operation is not improbable. If either of the two pumps was out of commission for a general overhauling or a breakdown should occur at the time of a large fire, the city would be practically without protection."

The report continues "from calculations made as to the capacity of the single supply main, as well as from the results of the fire flow tests, it is evident that these requirements cannot be met, even at pressures during flow so low as to require the use of fire engines, unless an additional and large supply main is installed."

About the fire department it said "the city has now attained a size such that adequate protection cannot be expected from a volunteer fire department; the in-creased congestion of construction and of values demands a promptness of response and concentration of effort during the first few minutes of a fire which can best be obtained through a full paid department. The appointment of chief officers for short terms, instead of indefinitely, introduces opportunities for political interference and incompetent management."

The report also stated "fire[fighting] methods are very unsatisfactory; direct hydrant streams are used exclusively, and with the present very poor [water] distribution system, adequate quantities of water are not available at even fair pressure to fight a moderate fire. The department is practically without discipline, there being little or no control over the individual members, which, together with the lack of drills, has resulted in very low general efficiency."

Under the heading of Conflagrations, the report adds "the water supply is inadequate and unreliable, the fire department is extremely weak and inefficient and would be hampered by overhead wire obstructions, and there is very little private fire protection, so that the probability of serious fires is high."

The board's recommendations for changes included "that a pressure-recording gauge be installed, an additional force main, the strengthening of the distribution system by the installation of mains in certain sections, a sufficient number of gate values, [and] additional hydrants." It further recommended "the present fire organization be disbanded and that a full paid department be organized."

Source: News & Observer, May 11, 1923

Apparatus Summary From 1924 Report   


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