Raleigh Fire Department History



Civil War begins with shots fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. (April 12, 1861)

North Carolina joins the Confederacy. (May 20, 1861)


Philip Thiem's machine shop in southeast Raleigh burned. Destroyed in nighttime blaze is an engine, machinery, and tools, "together with a grist mill adjacent, either by design or by accident." (April 13, 1865)wch

Union general Sherman occupies Raleigh. (April 14, 1865)

North Carolina surrenders. (April 26, 1865)

Several buildings on Fayetteville Street burned. Late evening blaze is described by R. H. Battle Jr. in a letter to his absent father. The merchants, he reports, "got most of their goods out of the store but lost some by theft." Adjacent buildings are " saved with much difficulty" because the fire engine is "out of order." Battle adds he learns "what was saved was saved through the efficiency of Yankee soldiers on the ground rather than by the energy of our citizens." (November 5, 1865)erm


City re-charted and governing body increased from three commissioners to nine, with enlargement of their powers.no26apr42

Two fire companies organized by "some of the younger men who had served in the Confederate Army." They operate the city's two hand engines, with Company No. 1 having the larger of the two. The two companies develop "great rivalry" between them. The officers of Fire Company No. 1 include:

  • Foreman, Dr. Jas. McKee, a medical student
  • Asst. Foreman, W. C. Stronach.

The officers of Fire Company No. 2:

  • Captain B. B. Green
  • 1st. Lieut. W.L. Pomeroy
  • 1st Lieutenant Wm. Simpson
  • 2nd Lieutenant, J. B. Franklin III
  • Secretary and Treasurer, W. J. Palmer. (by March 1, 1866)sent(d)04mar66, no23jul05


Mayor invites citizens to volunteer for fire companies in newspaper advertisement. Notice adds that citizens will be drafted if too few volunteer. (January 25, 1867)sent(d)25jan67

Three fire companies organized:

  • Fire Company No. 1, organized February 9
  • Fire Company No. 2, organized by February 11
  • Hook and Ladder Company, organized by February 11.

Officers of Fire Company No. 2:

  • Captain John Maguire,
  • Asst. Foreman W. S. Sparks
  • Secretary J. B. Jordan
  • Treasurer Phil Thiem. (February 11, 1867)sent(d)11feb67

Exchange Hotel burned. The prominent building is destroyed and an adjoining building is damaged. Fire companies and assisting citizens prevent the spread of fire to nearby buildings and dwellings. (March 2, 1867)sent(d)02mar67

Commissioners adopt a new code of ordinances concerning fire companies. The Mayor is charged with organizing three fire companies each year, two engine companies of forty men each, and a hook and ladder company of twenty men. (April 24, 1867)City Charter, pp52-53

Old North State Iron Works burned. Fire Companies No. 1 and No. 2 are quick to respond to the evening fire at the foundry and machine shops. The loss is between $8,000 and $10,000. (July 18, 1867)republican, 20jul67, sent(d)19jul67

Bucket Company organized. (by November 19, 1867)sent(d)19nov67

The four fire companies parade [on Fayetteville Street?]. The parade starts at 3:00 p.m. (November 28, 1867)sent(d)28nov67, sent(d)30nov67


Commissioners adopted new code of ordinances concerning Superintendent of Fire Department. The position is elected by a majority of fire company members at the annual January meeting of the fire companies. The person is empowered to superintend the engines, hooks and ladders, buckets, and all other materials belonging to the fire department of the city. The person reports quarterly to the Mayor and Commissioners on the condition of that equipment. The person is also responsible for enforcing a new ordinance regarding new stove construction. (by January 15, 1868)sent(d)15jan68

Joseph Backalan elected Chief of Department. (January 16, 1868)sent(d)16jan68, reg17jan68

Protection Fire Company No. 2 reorganized [for the present year]:

  • Jno. G. Maguire, Foreman
  • R. T. Boshier, Assistant Foreman
  • Geo. C. Upchurch, Secretary
  • Phil. Thiem, Treasurer
  • Pat Nolan, Hose Director
  • A. Moses, Engineer
  • John Ferrell, Assistant Engineer
  • C. Weigel
  • J. S. Fleishman
  • F. C. Christopher
  • Pat. Donahoe, Leading Hoseman
  • Robt. Simpson
  • D. Smith
  • W. Bell
  • A. Fraps
  • H. Harris
  • J. C. Brewster, Section Hoseman.

They meet at the Mayor's office. (February 14, 1868)sent (d)17feb68

Fire Company No. 1 organized for present year and elects officers:

  • C. M. McKimmon, Foreman
  • C. D. Heartt, Asst. Foreman
  • N. B. Broughton, Hose Director
  • Z. T. Broughton, Sec. and Treas.
  • W. T. Dancy, Engineer
  • B. B. Betts, Asst. Engineer.

The Foreman, Asst. Foreman, and Hose Director are appointed as a committee to solicit members for the company. Chief Engineer of the Fire Department Backalan has ordered 1,000 feet of hose and hopes there will be no lack of members for either company. Those wishing to join Company No. 1 are instructed to call L. E. Heartt's store and give their names. (February 20, 1868)sent (d)22feb68

Fire Company No. 1 and No. 2 [ and others? ] participatedd in the Democratic Convention parade. (August 13, 1868)sent(d)11aug68, sent(d)17aug68

Market House and two other buildings destroyed by fire. Awakened by the alarm of fire and led by the "glaring illumination that lit up the skies," hundreds find a restaurant and adjoining store ablaze. Despite the efforts of "gallant firemen" and their "insufficient apparatus," the flames soon spread to the Market House. All three buildings are consumed, leaving only "smoking ashes and desolate walls." Firefighters and citizens are successful, however, in preventing the fire from spreading up Fayetteville and toward Wilmington streets. During a newspaper reporter notes that "the engines refused to work, and there was not enough force in the machines to throw water 20 feet from the mouth of the pipe.” Another newspaper editorial notes "The firemen deserve all the praise, and above all, deserve and should at once have the best and most effective apparatus…Raleigh ought to have at least one Steam Fire Engine." (December 15, 1868)sent(d)16dec68, stan(d)15dec68

Jeff Fisher's store on Market Square caught fire. The fire is extinguished with only goods damaged and without the loss of any building. The cause is a defective flue. (December 25, 1868)stan(d)29dec68, sent(d)29dec68

C. W. Lambert residence on Hargett Street caught fire, but flames are extinguished without any loss. (December 25, 1868)stan(d)29dec68

Matilda Weddon's residence near the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad caught fire, but the fire is discovered in time to prevent damage. (December 25, 1868)stan(d)29dec68

The kitchen of the North Carolina Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind caught fire, but is not seriously damaged. (December 25, 1868)stan(d)29dec68


City Commissioners authorized colored citizens to form a fire company. (January 8, 1869)stan(d)11jan69

City Commissioners recommended rebuilding of the Market House and that the replacement structure included an engine house and a hall above on Wilmington Street. (January 27, 1869)sent(d)30jan69

Fire company of color citizens formed. Named Fire Company No. 1 by May 10. (by January 27, 1869)sent(d)30jan69, p3c1; sent(d)10may69

Fire Company No. 2 met at Mayor's Office for reorganization. (February 2, 1869)stan(d)02feb69

African Methodist Church in northwestern portion of city caught fire. The 4 a.m. blaze is discovered and extinguished by citizens. Damage is about $100. (February 27, 1869)stan(d)01mar69

A. W. Fraps residence and ice house burned. Fire is reported between 1 and 2 a.m. Firefighters prevent flames from spreading farther. Total loss is $1,200. (March 27, 1869)stan(d)29mar69

Merchants Independent Fire Company formed. J. C. Brewster is Foreman, and Junius Ferrell is Secretary. (by April 29, 1869)sent(d)29apr69

Moses A. Bledsoe residence in southeast Raleigh burned. The building is destroyed by the 2:00 a.m. fire. (May 13, 1869)sent(d)13may69

Fire companies participated in Fourth of July parade. (July 5, 1869)stan(d)07jul69

Engine Company No. 2 placed in service. The company numbers about sixty men. (by August 5, 1869)stan(d)05aug69, stan(d)12aug69

Confectionary store on Fayetteville Street caught fire. Smoke is observed in the back part of the building about 6:30 a.m. by two policemen. A small fire is discovered and extinguished by citizens. (August 22, 1869)sent(d)23aug69

Apparatus note: Merchants Fire Company holds meeting to adopt a plan and take the necessary steps to procure a steam fire engine. (August 27, 1869)sent(d)28aug69

Grocery store of Jordan Womble on Hargett Street burned. His entire stock is lost, despite the best efforts of all four fire companies. The hand engine of Fire Company No. 1 fails soon after being started, when its suction pip breaks. The fire company members immediately assist the Merchant Fire Company members with their hand engine. (November 3, 1869)stan(d)04nov69, sent(d)05nov69

M. E. Church caught fire. The alarm is reported at 8:30 a.m. and the fire in the lecture room is extinguished before any material damage is done. (November 9, 1869)stan(d)09nov69

Wood shed on the old State Bank site burned. Hook and Ladder Company members use their hooks to tear down the building, while Bucket Company members protect the Episcopal School room and other buildings that could have been damaged. (December 31, 1869)sent(d)01jan70

Joseph D. Backalan is Chief of Department.branson's ncbd

Volunteer fire company officers in 1869:
Merchants Fire Company Hook and Ladder Company Bucket Company Fire Company No. 1 (colored) Fire Company No. 2
J. C. Brewster Foreman
J. B. Jordan, Asst. Foreman
James Ferrell, Secretary
Frank O' Donnell, Engineer
A. Moses, Asst. Engineer
E. H. Love, Treasurer
A. Betts and D. T. Bunch, Section Hoseman
E. H. Ray, Foreman
R. F. Laswell, Asst. Foreman
Thomas Hampson, Secretary
J. G. Burt, Treasurer
______, Engineer
W. T. Stronach Foreman
S. C. White, Asst. Foreman
B. F. King, Secretary
Vitrvius Royster, Treasurer
James H. Jones Foreman.
Samuel Stewart, Asst. Foreman
Geo. Perry, Hose Directory
John E. Williams, Secretary
N. Dunston, Treasurer
Thomas Hall, Engineer
Richard Stewart, Asst. Engineer

Source: Branson's North Carolina Business Directory, 1869, p152.


[AA]   Aircraft accident
[AI]   Apparatus incident
[EF]   Early fire
[HM]   Haz-mat incident
[MA]   Mutual Aid
[MF]   Major fire
[RA   Railway accident
[TF]   Tanker fire
[TR]   Technical rescue
[UD]   USAR deployment
[UF]   Unusual fire
[UI]   Unusual incident
[WE]   Weather event


ar   City of Raleigh Annual Report
bd   City of Raleigh budget documents
cvh   Cameron Village: A History 1949-1999, Nan Hutchins, Sprit Press, 2001
cad City of Raleigh Auditor's Office
ccm / cm   City Council Minutes / City Minutes
ccor   1792-1892, The Centennial Celebration of Raleigh, NC, Kemp D. Battle, Edwards and Broughton, 1893
cer   Chief Engineer's Report
dah   North Carolina Department of Archives and History
dahni   North Carolina Department of Archives and History News and Observer index
fp   City of Raleigh Fire Protection Study
hr   Historical Raleigh with Sketches of Wake County and its Important Towns, Moss N. Amis, 1912
oh   Oral History
mjlr   Mike Legeros records.
mp   Morning Post
nc   North Carolinian
no   News and Observer
noi   News and Observer Index
pb   Peter Brock
pph   Pullen Park History
rla   Raleigh Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary scrapbooks
rpu   Raleigh Fire Department Photo Unit records
rr   Raleigh Register
rt   Raleigh Times
ruh   Raleigh: An Unorthodox History
yb84   Raleigh Fire Department 1984, Raleigh Fire Department, Taylor Publishing, 1984
yb02+   Raleigh Fire and Rescue: 1984-2002, Raleigh Fire Department, Taylor Publishing, 2002, plus additional historical information also compiled by the Raleigh Fire Department around 2002.
wch   Wake: Capital County of North Carolina - Volume 1, Prehistory Through Centennial, Elizabeth Reid Murray, Capital County Publishing, 1983


Search Mike Legeros

Spot an error on this page? Please let me know, just click my name below...

Copyright 2022 by Michael J. Legeros