Raleigh Fire Department History



Five fire companies protecting 1.8 square miles and 9,265 residents.

Old stable at Hargett and Salisbury destroyed by fire. (January 17, 1880)obs, 18jan80

Cottage just beyond National Cemetery destroyed by fire. (February 18, 1880)obs, 19feb80

Rescue engine house door ordered altered to be opened on the outside. Metropolitan Hall ordered altered to allow ringing of alarm bell from Guard House. (April 9, 1880)cm

Joseph H. Green elected Chief of Department. (May 11, 1880)cm

Metropolitan Hall ordered alter to allow Victor and Bucket companies to enter and leave their engine rooms. Chief Engineer authorized to purchase 250 badges to help officers identify company members at fires. The firemen do not wear their uniforms at fires, nor do they stop to don them before responding, so some mark or design is desired. (May 14, 1880)cm

Rescue Company installed a gong at their engine house which is attached to their telephone. The cisterns in the city are also given a certain number. When a fire alarm is reported to the telephone exchange, both the alarm and the cistern nearest the fire are sent to the engine house. (by May 25, 1880)obs, 25may80

Victor Company travelled to Charlotte. (August 10, 1880)obs, 20jul80

House at Blount and North Street burned. (August 20, 1880)obs, 21aug80

Downtown Durham burned. After a call for aid, the Phoenix Chemical and Hook and Ladder Companies prepare to travel to the scene. They are ready with their apparatus when a second telegram informs that the fire is under control. (September 7, 1880)obs, 08sep80

Tucker's Mill gin house just below the Governor's Palace burned. (October 6, 1880)no07oct80

Bell tower and adjoining sheds on northwest corner of Capitol Square destroyed by fire. (October 15, 1880)no16oct80

Clothing store on Wilmington Street just in the rear of the City Market destroyed by fire. (November 7, 1880)no09nov80

Planing Mills on North Street and adjacent residential structures destroyed by fire. (November 27, 1880)no28nov80

Several stores at Martin and Blount streets destroyed by fire. (December 12, 1880)no12dec80

Grist mill on Walnut Creek, near Fayetteville Road, one mile south of city destroyed by fire. (December 24, 1880)no24dec80

Public water cisterns as reported by Assistant Engineer R. H. Bradley in February 1880:obs, 13feb80

Location Capacity Amount
North and Blount 30,000 16,200
Person and Davie 34,00 25,000
Fayetteville and Davie 34,000 24,000
Davie and Lane 28,000 17,000
Salisbury and Lenoir 30,000 6,800
Hillsboro and Lane 30,000 14,000
New Bern and Bloodworth 30,000 5,000
Hargett and Wilmington 13,000 13,000
Fayetteville Street, Heartt's Shoe Store 18,000 18,000
Fayetteville Street, Royster's Store 18,000 18,000
Fayetteville Street, Mahler's Store 18,000 18,000
Peace Institute 12,000 6,000
Total 265,000 182,2000


Phoenix Chemical Company granted permission to locate engine house on Wilmington Street in front of Jackson's Stables. (February 4, 1881)cm

Eleven bales burned in the cotton yard. (March 1, 1881)no02mar81

Apparatus delivered: Four-wheel, hand-pulled Champion chemical engine to Phoenix Company. The engine is furnished with nozzles, two 18-foot ladders, buckets and axes, and 200 feet of hose. The cost is $200. The purchase is approved on November 8, 1880. (March 19, 1881)no19mar81; no09nov80

Twenty bales burned in the cotton yard. (March 24, 1881)no25mar81

Phoenix Chemical Company held event at Tucker Hall to raise money for purchase of horses for double-tank chemical engine. (April 5, 1881)no06apr81

Fire companies participated in Memorial Day procession. (May 10, 1881)no08may81

Aldermen vote to pay the Rescue Company Engineer $50 per year for his services, and $50 per year afterward. (April 20, 1881)cm

John Weir elected Chief of Department. (May 24, 1881)cm

Entire fire department conducts parade for inspection for the first time. (May 27, 1881)no28may81

Apparatus note: Horses stabled at the Rescue Company placed under control of Street Department, with provisions that they must not be used or sent beyond the sound of the fire alarm, and must be driven with all possible haste to the engine house at the first sound of the alarm. The employment and wages of the driver, the purchasing of food, and all other things pertaining to the care of the animals are placed under the charge of the Street Committee. (June 3, 1881)cm

Stables owned by Fire Chief John Weir destroyed by fire. (June 22, 1881)no23jn81

Fire Commissioners received report that on Saturday night, November 26, between 12 and 1 a.m., Chief Weir and George Scales came to the Rescue engine house and pulled the engine out of the house and left it outside. It was also reported that on Tuesday night, December 6, between 12 and 1 a.m., Chief Weir and George Hayward came to the engine house and broke a lock on the door. The parties were reported as having been at times under the influence of liquor. (December 7, 1881)cm, 09dec81

Chief Weir submitted resignation. (December 9, 1881)minutes9dec81

Raleigh City Directory, 1880-81, described the fire department as:

  • Jos. H. Green, Chief Engineer
  • R. H. Bradley, Asst. Eng.
  • Rescue Steam Engine Company, W. J. Weir, Foreman; Theo. Fentress, Sec.
  • Phoenix Chemical, F. H. Heartt, Foreman; H. H. Roberts, Sec.
  • Hook and Ladder, Howard Heartt, Foreman
  • Victor, J. H. Jones, Foreman; Wm. Mitchell, Sec.

Inspection of fire companies on May 27, 1881: no28may81

Company Rescue Steamer Hook and Ladder Phoenix Chemical Victor Bucket
Foreman T. W. Blake T. L. Love F. H. Heartt James H. Jones  
Members 60 32 50 80 40
Equipment Gould steamer, hose carriage 1,000 feet of good hose, 2,00 feet of damage hose; engine has been used for 11 years and needs general repairs One truck in good order, with ladders, etc., in good order Two engines, one single and one double tank, both in good order. No horses for larger engine. One large hand engine, in good order, 600 feet of good hose, 150 feet of old hose Bucket and ladder truck
Chief John W. Weir, Chief Engineer
Assistant R. W. Bradley, Assistant Chief Engineer


House in rear of Washington Colored Grade School at McDowell and South streets destroyed by fire. (January 4, 1882)no05jan82

Chief Weir resignation accepted and Thomas W. Blake elected Chief of Department. (January 6, 1882)cm, 09dec81

House on West Street destroyed by fire. (January 12, 1882)no13jan82

House at corner of Peace and Blount streets destroyed by fire. (January 24, 1882)no25jan82

Phoenix Chemical Company holds multi-day event at Memorial Hall to continue to raise money for purchase of horses for double-tank chemical engine. (February 15, 1881)no16feb81

Fire Committee recommends adoption of City Ordinance revision: "That any member of an organized Fire Co who shall neglect his duties as such and who shall absent himself from meetings and drills of his company and who shall fail to respond to fire alarms, and report for duty at fires, for the space of three months, shall cease to be regarded as an active member of the fire department. That the Sec of such company shall in or before the last Friday in March in each year furnish to the Chief Engineer a report of the names, ages, residence and occupation of each member in his company, which report the Sec shall certify on oath before the Mayor to be correct. That the Chief Engineer shall certify to the City Clerk at least one month before the taking of the city tax list a roll of the active members of the fire department who are reported as being over 21 years of age, and they shall be exempted from poll tax as long as they remain active members of the fire dept." The committee also recommends the purchase of 700 feet of American Jacket Hose for the Victor Company. (April 7, 1882)cm

Fire companies participated in Memorial Day procession. (May 10, 1882)no10may82

Fire companies participated in funeral procession of Mayor Manly. (May 16, 1882)no17may82

Thomas Blake elected Chief of Department. (May 23, 1882)no24may82

Entire fire department conducts a parade for inspection. (June 23, 1882)no22jun82

Ellington, Royster, & Company workshops in northwestern part of the city near the Hillsboro Street bridge destroyed by fire. (June 25, 1882)no25jun82

Victor Company visited Wilmington and competes in competitions with Wilmington companies. (by August 11, 1882)no11aug82

Chief Engineer granted request for a stove for Fireman's Hall at Metropolitan Hall, and for alterations to the horse stalls at the Rescue engine house. (December 1, 1882)cm

Market House Committee are referred requests from citizens to open the east end of Metropolitan Hall. They are instructed to report the cost of work and to provide engine houses for the apparatus stored there. (January 5, 1883)cm

Summary of fire companies on January 15, 1882: no15jan82

Company Rescue Steamer Hook and Ladder Phoenix Chemical Victor Bucket
Officers Foreman, ______

Asst. Foreman, W. R. Dicks

Hose Director, Frank Brannan

Asst. Hose Director, Walter Scott

Secretary, W. W. Briggs

Treasurer, C. A. Riddle

Engineer, W. T. Blake

Asst. Engineer, G. W. Jolly
Foreman, Thomas L. Love

First Asst., Willis Fowler

Asst., John G. Mabel

Secretary, John C. Gardner

Treasurer, William H. Ellis

Financial Secretary, W. H. Olive

President, Howard E. Heart
Foreman, F. H. Heartt

Asst. Foreman, Matt Moore

Asst. Foreman, R. H. Macy

Secretary, Samuel Kramer

 Treasurer, J. R. Ferrall
Foreman, James H. Jones

Asst. Foreman, ___ Hunter
Captain, L. C. Ball

Lieut. Ephraim Beavers,

Secretary, C. H. Hunter

Treasurer, Russell Spencer
Members 67 35 50 80 45
Chief T. W. Blake, Chief Engineer
Assistant T. L. Love, Assistant Chief Engineer
Secretary H. H. Roberts


Citizen requests received to open the east end of the City Market , which would require housing the fire apparatus elsewhere. The requests are referred to the Market Commission. (January 5, 1883)cm

Captain Randolph A. Shotwell, editor of The Farmer and Mechanicnewspaper, drafts plan for reaching persons in upper stories during a fire and sends it to the New York Worldnewspaper on the Sunday after a deadly fire in Milwaukee: "The suggestions for tall towers, fire escapes, jumping blankets, bow and arrow, etc., must attain in case where the height of the building runs to six, seven, or eight and nine stories, as is now common. I am anxious to contribute my mite [sic] to the cause of humanity; therefore I offer through you to the Fire Department of your city this method for saving life: Let each of your fire companies have three or four picked men-- of light weight-- trained to run up telegraph poles. Give them a set of ladders, consisting of strong but light pole, 16 feet long, bent at the upper end like a shepherd's crook or the letter f, with short rungs or pegs through the pole for hands and feet. I send you a rude diagram of my idea. When a fire occurs, and persons appear at the windows, raise your ordinary ladders to the third storie [sic], then send up your "light-weight" life savers. Let each raise his pole ladder, catch the hook over the sill of the window above him, climb to that story, put one leg over the sill to steady himself, raise the ladder to the next story and go on climbing to the person in peril. He should have a small reel fastened to his shoulder with a cord to draw up a rope ladder after he reaches the top story. Descent would then be easy." (January 15, 1883)

Apparatus note: Chief Engineer authorized to have the Bucket and Ladder truck altered and repaired. (April 6, 1883)cm

Apparatus note: Phoenix Chemical Company granted permission to purchase a pair of horses for the double-tank engine. If they will purchase same, the city will equip and maintain them in a similar manner as the Rescue horses. Fire company also requests to move engine house to adjoin the Rescue engine house. Chief Engineer and Fire Commissioners are directed to get permission from County Commissioners. (April 6, 1883)cm

Eureka Fire Company notified city of their organization and offers their services to the city. Their offer is accepted and they are assigned the use of the hand engine and fire equipment located at the cotton yard. (April 6, 1883)cm

Saint Augustine's Normal School burned. The main building is discovered ablaze at 4 p.m., with flames in an defective flue apparently having smoldered since the night before. Fanned by a lively breeze, the building burns "like timber." As the school is beyond the city limits, the Mayor grants permission for a portion of the fire department to respond. The Rescue steamer, the small Phoenix engine, and the Bucket Company respond. The Rescue company lays a line from the bridge at the head of a lake, with its suction hose dropped into the spring there. Though there is plenty of water, the delayed response gives the fire great headway. Firefighters are unable to control the flames, which spread to four other buildings. Only the portion of one building, a dormitory, is saved. Teachers and pupils save their personal effects and nearly all of the school's furniture is rescued. The lost is estimated at about $16,000. By 6 p.m., the fire is extinguished. The total attendance of the school is 125, with about 80 boarders. One Rescue company member is injured, when thrown from the engine while responding. (March 6, 1883)no07mar8

Twelve buildings burn on Salisbury Street. (May 27, 1883)banner-enterprise(w), 31may1883; no29may83

Entire fire department paraded for inspection. (July 4, 1883)no06jul83

Thomas Blake elected Chief of Department. (July 6, 1883)no07jul83

Pullen Building on Fayetteville Street burned. (July 13, 1883)no14jul83

Apparatus note: Phoenix Company double-tank chemical engine now drawn by horses. (July 14, 1883)cm

House at 711 Hillsboro Street destroyed by fire. (August 28, 1883)no29aug83

Row of buildings at the State Penitentiary destroyed by fire. (September 1, 1883)no01sep83

Summary of fire companies on January 1, 1883: no31dec82

Company Rescue Steamer Hook and Ladder Phoenix Chemical Victor Bucket
Officers Foreman, W. R. Dicks

Asst. Foreman, Robert E. Lumsden

Secretary, Walter Scott

Treasurer, C. S. Riddle
Foreman, George Habel

First Asst., Willis Fowler

Secretary, N. S. Cove

Treasurer, N. S. Cove
Foreman, F. H. Heartt

Asst. Foreman, Matt Moore

Asst. Foreman, R. H. Macy

Secretary, A. H. Haynes

 Treasurer, J. R. Ferrall
Foreman, James H. Jones

Asst. Foreman, A. Hunter

Secretary, N. S. Taylor

Treasurer, Norfleet Dunston
Foreman, L. C. Ball

Asst. Foreman E. Beavers,

Secretary, C. H. Hunter
Members 60 30 50 90 35
Chief T. W. Blake, Chief Engineer
Assistant T. L. Love, Assistant Chief Engineer
Secretary H. H. Roberts


Fire companies participated in funeral procession of Rescue Company member Dan Coogan. (Wednesday before March 21, 1884)no21mar84

House on S. Harrington Street near W. Martin Street burned. While responding, the Phoenix Company double-tank engine and horse team runs over the well-known merchant J. M. Rosenbaum. The victim later dies of his injuries. The bill for $425 of medical treatment is presented to city officials for reimbursement. (April 4, 1884)no05apr84

Stable on Halifax Street near cotton platform destroyed by fire. (April 5, 1884)no06apr84

Chief Engineer request allowed for 24 rubber buckets, 24 lanterns, 6 axes, 200 feet hose for chemical engine, 300 feet 2-inch hose and 24 buckets for use at cotton platform. (June 6, 1884)cm

Fire companies participated in Fourth of July procession. (July 4, 1884)no05jul84

Raleigh Cotton Gin Company on the lower end of Fayetteville Street is destroyed by fire. (July 10, 1884)no11jul84

Shed and stables adjoining house outside city near State Penitentiary burned. (August 18, 1884)no18aug84

Victor Company travelled to New Bern. (August 19, 1884)no20aug84

Annual fire department parade and inspection held. (May 20, 1884)no18may84

Colored firefighters from Wilmington visited city. (August 27, 1884)no28aug84

House at E. Edenton Street and N. Person Street burned. (October 16, 1884)no16octl84

Five fire companies operated during fiscal year ending April 30, 1884:

Company Rescue Steamer Hook and Ladder Phoenix Chemical Victor Bucket 'n' Ladder
Foreman W. R. Dicks W. H. Ellis Geo. H. Williams Jas. H. Jones L. C. Bell
Quarters Rescue Steamer House Market House Phoenix Chemical House Market House Market House
Chief T. W. Blake, Chief Engineer
Assistant T. L. Love, Assistant Chief Engineer

Public water cisterns available for fire purposes during fiscal year ending April 30, 1885:

# Fire Division Location Built By Gallons Openings Water Level, May 1
Ward Streets Feet Inches
1 Fifth Third Fayetteville & Davie City 40,000 2 14 10
2 Fifth Third Fayetteville between Martin & Hargett City 7,000 1 1 5
3 Fifth Third Fayetteville between Martin & Hargett City 7,000 1 2 1
4 Fifth Third Fayetteville between Hargett & Morgan City 7,000 1 4 9
5 Fifth Third Hargett & Wilmington City 10,000 1 5 10
6 Fourth Fifth Hillsboro & Harrington City 30,000 2 12 7
7 Third Fourth Lenoir & Salisbury City 30,000 2 10 1
8 Third Fifth Davie & Dawson City 40,000 2 10 1
9 Second Second Davie & Person City 30,000 2 7 4
10 First First New Bern Ave. & Bloodworth City 30,000 2 10  
11 First First Blount & North City 30,000 2 8 10
12 Fifth Third Capitol Square, east side State 50,000 1 10  
13 First Third Capitol Square, west side State 50,000 1 10  

Remarks: "Beside these there are a few private cisterns to which our apparatus can get access in case of need, but they are small and will do but little good. The tank at the cotton platform has a capacity of about 5,000 gallons and will add materially in case of fire in that locality, as it can be kept full by force pump at Railroad Shops." ar


Art Gallery at Saint Mary's college burned. From the January 6, 1885 edition of The News & Observer: "At 12:30 o'clock this morning the beautiful new art gallery at St. Mary's was found to be on fire. The building was of wood, 80 x 50 feet, two stories high, resting on a brick foundation. In the basement was the heater, from which the flues ran in all directions. It appeared to be not a minute after the discovery of the fire that the entire interior of the building was a mass of flame. The alarm was given by telephone from Maj. R. S. Tucker's. The Rescue and double-tank chemical engines responded to the alarm. The building was connected with the other buildings by a covered-way, the roof of which was tin. Along this the fire soon swept and endangered the other buildings. The chemical engine did some work in checking it until after the roof and timbers of the burning building fell in. The east "rock house" stands within about 60 feet of the burned building. Luckily this is entirely of stone, which a brick cornice and a tin roof, and though so greatly endangered did not catch and was not injured. The covered-way was not destroyed, the Rescue getting on two streams and extinguishing the flames." (January 6, 1885)

Cotton at NC railroad depot burned. (January 28, 1885)no29jan85

Store in Prarie Building on S. Wilmington Street burned. (March 9, 1885)no10mar85

Downtown Henderson burned. Aid is requested and the double-tank Chemical Company and Bucket and Ladder Company are readied, but receive word that the fire is under control. (March 22, 1885)no23mar85

Thomas W. Blake elected Chief of Department. (May 7, 1885)no08may85

Fire companies participated in Memorial Day procession. (May 10, 1885)no12may85

Annual fire department parade and inspection planned, but postponed. (May 20, 1885)no19may85

Hotel in Fayetteville burned. Rescue Company and their steamer is sent via railroad flatcar. Read the newspaper account. (November 5, 1885)

Apparatus note: Special committee directed to have Victor Company hand engine altered to be pulled by horses. (November 6, 1885)cm

Five fire companies operated during fiscal year ending April 30, 1885:

Company Rescue Steamer Hook and Ladder Phoenix Chemical Victor Bucket 'n' Ladder
Foreman W. R. Dicks W. H. Ellis Geo. H. Williams Jas. H. Jones L. C. Bell
Quarters Rescue Steamer House Market House Phoenix Chemical House Market House Market House
Chief T. W. Blake, Chief Engineer
Assistant T. L. Love, Assistant Chief Engineer


Grocery Store and nearby wooden shed on lower Fayetteville Street destroyed by fire. (March 10, 1886)no10mar86

House in northwestern part of city destroyed by fire. Child is killed. (March 24, 1886)no25mar86

Two Raleigh & Gaston railroad freight cars burned near the N.C. Car Company's shops. Both are destroyed at a loss of $500 or $600. (August 22, 1886)no22aug86

Earthquake struck city. No fires are reported. (August 31, 1886)no31aug86

Phoenix Chemical Company engine house authorized to be moved to City Lot and stalls attached for horses. (September 4, 1886)no05sep86

Barkley's Restaurant suffered small fire. (October 18, 1886)no19oct86

Row of double houses at Fairground burned. (October 19, 1886)no20oct86

Pioneer Mills destroyed by fire. Fire is believed incendiary in origin. Damage is estimated at $35,000. (October 20, 1886)no21oct86

Cotton platform and about 1,000 bales of cotton burned. Fire is started by spark from cotton compress. The fire rages for hours and is fought by both the fire companies and employees of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad shops. Officials contact the Goldsboro Fire Department. The telegram requests that they "hold themselves in readiness" in the event aid was needed. In Goldsboro, a special train is ordered ready and within twenty minutes, a telegram is received in Raleigh stating that the fire engines are aboard the train and ready to roll. Their assistance is ultimately not needed. Some of the cotton was still burning after two weeks. (November 30, 1886)no01dec86; no14dec86

Cotton platform suffers second, small fire. (December 16, 1886)no17dec86

Turner, M'Lean, and Losee Directory Company city director dated 1886 summarizes fire department as:

  • Board of Fire Commissioners:
    R. S. Tucker, J. B. Neathery, J. C. Brewster, P. Cowper, M. H. Brown
  • Department Officers:
    T. W. Blake, Chief Engineers; T. L. Love, Assistant Chief Engineer; H. H. Roberts, Secretary
  • Company Officers:
    Rescue Steam Co., W. R. Dick, foreman; Alex Kreth, Secretary
    Phoenix Chemical Co., Geo. H. Willison, Foreman; A. H. Haynes, Secretary
    Hook and Ladder Co., W. H. Ellis, Foreman
    Victor Co., N. S. Taylor, Foreman; Simon H. Lane, Secretary
    Bucket and Ladder Co., Geo. Brewer, Foreman


Raleigh Oil and Fertilizer Company mills at the corner of W. Harrington and S. Davie streets destroyed by fire. Reported around 7 a.m., the blaze completely guts the two largest brick buildings. Large seed sheds and rooms are also burned, as are offices and an extensive storage room for cotton seed meal. A dwelling in the rear of the mills is also consumed. Firefighters save the guano house, however. The roaring blaze draws rosin from fences 100 yards away and also expands several feet of nearby railroad tracks. The tops of telegraph poles 50 yards away are also burned. Several colored firefighters are slightly injured when a seed shed roof collapses, while Jordan Brooks has all his hair burned off and is "badly scorched." One month later he is still suffering from his injuries and unable to return to his "daily avocation." Another colored firefighter suffers a broken finger while trying to pull down a wall. Losses are estimated at $100,000. The ruins continue to burn for several days. (March 27, 1887)no27mar87; no30wed87, p4c2; sanborn maps

Bucket Company travelled to Warrenton. The train derails on the return trip, though no firefighters are injured. (Jun 14, 1887)no14jun87

Capital Hose Company No. 1 organized. Officers are:

  • F. H. Lumsden, Foreman
  • John T. Davis, First Assistant
  • J. W. Cross, Second Assistant
  • Will Rosenthal, Secretary
  • H. F. Smith, Treasurer
  • C. C. Hamlet
  • C. W. Carter
  • W. R. Bunch
  • J. J. Whitehead, Nozzlemen
  • L. A. Mahler
  • R. K. Williams, Engineers.

The company has 25 members total and is housed at E. H. Lee's stables until a permanent house is erected. (June 15, 1887)no30jul87; no 16jun87, p4c1

Independent Hose Reel Company No. 1 organized. (by July 1, 1887)no01jul87

Colored firefighters travelled to Charlotte. (August 5, 1887)no06aug87

Phoenix Hose Company proposed. The Phoenix Chemical Company requests a two-horse hose cart and 1,000 feet of hose from the city. (August 5, 1887)no06aug87; no15sepl87

Apparatus note: City Aldermen request four-wheel hose cart split into two two-wheel hand hose carts. (September 2, 1887)no03sep87

First fire hydrants placed in service, after the Board of Alderman pass resolution declaring the new water works to be placed in service. (October 13, 1887)no14oct87

Story of the Water Works

November 11, 1886 - Contract signed with National Waterworks Company of Dayton Ohio to construct and maintain a supply of water for public use.

Installed over several subsequent months, the system draws water from Walnut Creek, above possible source of contamination, near the Asylum road. Water is conducted through 14 and 15 inch pipes to a pump house at the Jones mill site. The supply line includes three sand pits to clean the water as well as wire strainers preventing fish from passing through.

On the north side of the pond, a 1,832,000 gallon reservoir is built. A system of charcoal and gravel filters clean all water before entering the reservoir. The pump house is brick with stone foundations and includes two "Duplex Compound Condensing Pumping Engines" with an aggregate capacity of 2,052,084 gallons per day. Two boilers power the pumps.

On Morgan Street, a water tower is erected, built of stone and brick. An iron tank at the top holds 101,516 gallons of water. The tank is connected with a 12-inch main and has a valve which can be closed, thereby providing " direct pressure" in the event of an emergency.

Also installed are 120 double fire hydrants in public locations. Each is effective in furnishing fire streams without the aid of "portable engines." The volunteer fire companies will no longer need their hand- or steam-powered pumping engines to fight most fires. Also, new fire companies are organized, as they only require people, hose, a hose reel or cart, and some small equipment.

The hydrants were "Mathew double-opening" models. The mains were manufactured by R. D. Wood of Philadelphia and ranged between 14 and 4 inches. They totaled 3,498,285 pounds worth of iron, delivered between December 4, 1886, and May 21, 1887. 

September 28, 1887 - Acceptance tests were conducted on the water system's fire hydrants. Water tower pressure (e.g. with no boost from the pumping station) was tested with three hydrants supplying three streams about 60 feet high and with a pressure of 40 pounds. Next was pumping station pressure (also called "direct pressure") using eight hydrants supplying eight streams through 50 feet of 2 1/2-inch rubber hose, with a one-inch ring nozzle. These pressures were recorded:

  • 64 pounds, 100 feet vertical/130 feet horizontal streams, 144 GPM at nozzle
  • 75 pounds, 111 feet vertical/141 feet horizontal streams, 156 GPM at nozzle
  • 80 pounds, 116 feet vertical/148 feet horizontal streams, 161 GPM at nozzle

 The first test is performed using hydrants on Fayetteville and Hargett streets. The second test is performed in each of the four corners of the city. Six streams are powered for three-quarters of an hour to an average height of 119.5 feet, provide two more streams than required and 19.5 feet higher than required. no29sep87

Board of Aldermen passed resolution declaring the water works placed in service. (October 13, 1887)no14oct87

Hose house placed in service at 117 W. Morgan Street for Capital Hose Company. Two-story brick building located at water tower also houses office of water works. (November 4, 1887)no03nov87, cm 04nov87

Apparatus note: Five city horses reported as used by fire department, three by Rescue and two by Phoenix companies. (November 4, 1887)cm

City Aldermen appointed Fire Commission of five citizens on recommendation of Chief Engineer Thomas W. Blake. The City Charter is amended to read "The Committee on the Fire Department shall have under its supervision the fire department, and make such recommendations to the board as they shall deem necessary. No appropriation shall be made or supplies furnished to the fire department until the same shall be approved and recommended by said committed." (November 4, 1887)yb84

Fire alarm system demonstrated by representative from Gamewell Fire Alarm System of New York to Fire Committee in Mayor's office. (November 22, 1887)no22nov87

City Aldermen approve purchase of Gamewell electric telegraph fire alarm system. Contract provides for ten non- interference fire boxes, poles, gongs, strikes, and everything necessary for a "complete system of ten boxes." Additional boxes shall be furnished at a cost of $125 each. The system must be completed and working within 90 days of signing the contract. Payment of $2,890 authorized to be made on January 1, 1889. (December 9, 1887)10dec87

Five fire companies operated during fiscal year ending April 30, 1887:

Company Rescue Steam No. 1 Phoenix Chemical No. 1 Hook and Ladder No. 1 Victor Fire No. 1 Bucket and Ladder No. 1
Foreman W. R. Dicks George H. Williams W. T. Utley J. H. Jones G. W. Brewer
Assistant Foreman W. W. Willis A. H. Haynes Jesse Watkins S. Dunston Robert Powell
Members 37 61 20 60 44
Equipment Second-class Gould Steamer

2-wheel horse hose truck

4-wheel hand hose truck

2-wheel hand hose truck

3 horses
Single cylinder engine

Double cylinder engine

2 horses
4-wheel hand truck 4-wheel hand engine

2-wheel hand hose truck
4-wheel hand truck
Quarters Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie streets 308 1/7 Wilmington St. Market House Market House Market House
Chief Thomas W. Blake, Chef Engineer


Rescue engine house reported as in unsafe condition, reports Building Committee. They are instructed to report the cost of necessary repairs. The estimated $75 repairs are subsequently ordered to be done. (January 6, 1888)cm

Hose house rented on Morgan Street west of Blount Street for Independent Hose Reel Company. Board of Aldermen approve rental of no more than $3 per month on February 10, 1888. (February 10, 1888)no11feb88

Gamewell electric-telegraph fire alarm system installed. The system utilizes ten alarm boxes which activate a striker which sounds the box numbers on the fire alarm bell at Metropolitan Hall. Each alarm box is also locked, with the location of the keys listed. Keys are also kept at the nearest resident to the alarm box. Upon unlocking and activating the box, the "town bell" sounds the location. The signal is repeated four times. The "town bell" is located in the Metropolitan Hall clock tower (?). The box locations:

  • Box 13, southeast corner Johnson and Halifax streets
  • Box 14, southwest corner Oakwood Avenue and Person Street
  • Box 15, northwest corner Edenton and East streets
  • Box 23, northwest corner Martin and Wilmington streets
  • Box 24, northeast corner Davie and Bloodworth streets
  • Box 25, southwest corner Wilmington and South streets
  • Box 31, southwest corner Davie and Dawson streets
  • Box 32, southwest corner Hillsboro and West streets
  • Box 41, west side of Dawson Street midway between Jones and Lane streets
  • Box 42, northwest corner of Halifax and Edenton streets.

The alarm boxes also contain a telegraph key, which officials and firefighters can use to communicate special signals:

  • one blow, test of line. Any policeman or other city officer should report this signal at once to the Superintendent of the Fire Alarm
  • two blows, call for direct pressure on water system
  • two blows, repeated three times, call for increased pressure on water system
  • three blows, fire under control
  • four blows, direct pressure activated
  • seven blows, call for general alarm
  • ten blows, call for police
  • twelve blows, signal for Superintendent of Fire Alarm.

Key holders are instructed to activate the alarm box once and only once. Upon successful transmission of an alarm, a small bell rings inside the box. They are then instructed to remain at the box until a member of the fire department or a piece of fire apparatus arrives. They are also reminded to " never give your key to an irresponsible person," "never open the door except to give an alarm of fire," and "always send in the alarm from the box nearest the fire." (April 26?, 1887)no27apr88

First fire alarm sent from newly installed Gamewell electric telegraph system. The test alarm is sounded from Box 42. The responding fire companies who were not previously notified of the test arrive as soon as one minute and 40 seconds, as the Capital Hose Company does. (April 27, 1888)no28apr88

First fire reported from alarm box. After flames engulf the kitchen of a residence on Dawson Street, Box 41 is struck. Within five minutes of the first striking of the bell, two streams are played against the burning building. Within five more minutes, the bell announces the signal that the fire is under control. (April 29, 1888)01may88

Cotton gin on Fayetteville Road burned. Located outside the city limits, the fire is still reached using several hundred feet of hose. The gin is fully insured and suffers a loss of $500. The fire is reported at 4.20 p.m. (May 7, 1888)no08may88

Independent Hose Company travelled to Fayetteville. (May 25, 1887)no26may88

Colored fireman's tournament held in Raleigh. Participating fire companies arrive from Charlotte and Chester, S.C. (August 8, 1887)no09aug88

North Carolina State Firemen's Association organized. Fire department member E. B. Engelhard is one of the charter members. From the July 15, 1916 edition of the Raleigh Times: In 1888, the few fire departments in North Carolina were in such a chaotic and unorganized condition that Chief E. B. Engelhard of Raleigh, Chief C. D. Benbow of Greensboro, and James D. McNeill, chief of the Fayetteville department, decided to call a meeting of the firemen of the state to meet in Greensboro on September 26, 1888, for the purpose of organizing a state association for the betterment of the service. The attendance was small but enthusiastic, and was organized the N. C. State Fireman's Association to carry out the following purposes: "For the protection and promotion of the best interests of the firemen of North Carolina, the compilation of fire statistics, the collection of information concerning the practical workings of the different systems of organization, the examination and inquiry into the merits of the different kinds of fire apparatus in use and the improvements in the same, and the cultivation of a fraternal spirit of fellowship between the several companies and departments of the state." (September 26, 1888)

Fireman's tournament conducted in Greensboro. The Independent Hose Company wins two contests, the Reel Race and the Grab Race. (September 27, 1888)no28sep88

Resignation of Chief Engineer Blake accepted and Edward B. Engelhard appointed Chief of Department , serves 1888-1896. (December 17, 1888)no17dec1888

Sanborn fire insurance map dated February 1888 summarizes fire department and water supply as

  • volunteer of 200 men
  • one steam engine
  • one hand engine
  • one double-tank chemical engine
  • one single-tank chemical engine
  • two hook and ladder trucks
  • one independent carriage [for Chief?]
  • four independent hose carts
  • 1,600' 2 1/2" rubber hose, 7,00' 2 1/2" cotton hose, 500' 2 1/2" leather hose.
  • Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system
  • 10 boxes
  • 12 miles water pipes in city limits, three miles water pipes beyond city limits
  • 105 six-inch and 20 four-inch double hydrants
  • average pressure from tower, 47 pounds
  • direct pumping, 60 pounds
  • city population 15,000.

Seven fire companies operated during fiscal year ending April 30, 1888:

Company Rescue Steamer No. 1 Phoenix Chemical No. 1 Hook and Ladder No. 1 Capital Hose Reel No. 1 Independent Hose Reel No. 1 Victor Fire No. 1 Bucket and Ladder No. 1
Foreman R. E. Lumsden G. H. Williams A. J. Williams Frank H. Lumsden M. Andrews Alfred Haywood Samuel T. Stewart
Assistant Foreman John S. Riddle A. H. Haynes Willis Fowler Jno. R. Ferrall E. L. Taylor Peter Cobb Jos. B. Mills
Members 34 61 29 25 19 62 39
Equipment Second-class Gould Steamer

2-wheel horse hose truck

4-wheel hand hose truck

2-wheel hand hose truck

3 horses
Single cylinder engine

Double cylinder engine

2 horses
4-wheel hand truck  2-wheel hand reel 2-wheel hand reel 4-wheel hand engine

2-wheel hose truck
4-wheel hand truck
Quarters Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie streets

308 1/7 Wilmington Street (?)

Market House 115 W. Morgan Street Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie streets Market House Market House
Chief Thomas W. Blake, Chef Engineer


Apparatus note: Rescue company newest horse is described by newspaper as "when the fire alarm sounded yesterday morning the new horse of the Rescue company trotted at once into the shafts and was ready to be hitched in a moment. He has been under training only about a month and is already well drilled." (February 22, 1889)no22feb89

State Fireman's Association met in the hall of the Capital Hose Company to discuss the location of the next conference and tournament. Raleigh is chosen and the date is set as August 13 and 14. Discussion topics are also decided:

  • Should not a special tax be levied on insurance companies for the benefit of firemen, and should not the State make an appropriation?
  • What is the danger from electric wires, and how best remedy the trouble?
  • What class of men are best suited to make good firemen?
  • What are the advantages of shut-off nozzles, and relief valves on fire engines?
  • Which is the best hose-- considering strength, durability, cost and care in handling, and what style of nozzle is best suited for fire service.
  • Should there not be an officer in every city whose duty shall be to inspect all buildings and to examine into the causes of all fires?
  • How best shall firemen protect property from water damage?
  • What are the benefits of a chemical engine, and how best utilized? (April 16, 1889)no17apr89

Fire companies participated in Memorial Day procession. (May 10, 1889)no0tmay89

Fire Committee recommendations adopted on July 5, 1889:cm

  • Allow $10 month for Independent Hose Company reel house rental
  • Appropriate $175 for horse for Capital Hose wagon. Horse to be used for drawing street sprinklers and other street work when necessary, and will alternate with Rescue horse.
  • Appropriate $100 to build house for Capital Hose wagon.
  • Before such appropriations are made to said companies, the companies shall make a bill of sale to the city of all apparatus owned by them, with the condition that they shall retain possession of the apparatus and can use same as long as it retains its organization and obeys the rules and regulations of the fire department.

Apparatus note: Capital Hose Company hose wagon delivered. The wagon is named " Margie Lilly," in honor of the daughters of Assistant Chief John Ferrall. The wagon was made by Colby, Craig, & Co. of Grand Rapids, MI, at a cost of $375. It is described as "resembles, in general shape, an ordinary wagon, although it is more symmetrical, and its get up and finish and painting is very elaborate, having nickel-plated side and hand rails, elevated drivers seat, side fenders, gong, axe, and other firefighting appliances." (July 30, 1889)no31jul89

Capital Hose Company relocated to new building opposite 117 W. Morgan Street. The new building houses the new hose wagon. (August 1889)no03aug89

Second annual North Carolina Firemen's Association convention held in Raleigh. The first fire company to arrive is the Atlantic Company of New Berne, accompanied by the New Berne band which "marshaled them in with gay music." Upon their arrival they were "conducted up town and regaled with a splendid array of refreshments" provided by the Raleigh Fire Department.

The official program for the two days:

Tuesday, August 13 - Fireman's parade forms at 10:00 a.m. on Fayetteville Street at Davie Street, with marching orders given at 10:30 a.m. The parade is under control of the Chief Marshall, R. E. Lumsden, and Assistant Marshals C. D. Benbow of Greensboro, J. T. Thaeker of Winston, Joesph E. Robinson of Goldsboro, H. A. Reams Jr. of Durham, J. S. Correll and H. F. Smith of Raleigh, and H. J. Lovick of New Berne. The parade will march up Fayetteville Street to the Mayor's office, where Mayor A. A. Thompson will deliver an address welcoming the firemen. C. D. Benbow, President of the firemen's association, will respond for the firemen. The Capital Hose Company No. 3 as represented by J. N. Holding will present a hose wagon as a gift to the city. W. R. Womble, Chairman of the Committee on Fire Department, will accept the wagon from the department.

The order of the parade:

  1. Platoon of Police- Major C. D. Heart, Chief
  2. Chief Marshal and Assistant Marshals.
  3. Raleigh Cornet Band.
  4. Governor's Guard.
  5. Mayor of Raleigh, Committee on Fire Department, Officers of North Carolina State's Fireman's Association, Mayors and Chiefs of visiting departments in carriages.
  6. Phoenix Hook and Ladder Company, Columbia, SC
  7. Phoenix Reel Company, Columbia, SC
  8. Atlantic Steam Fire Engine Band, New Berne
  9. Atlantic Steam Fire Engine Company and Reel, New Berne
  10. Winston-Salem Fire Engine and Reel, Winston
  11. Goldsboro Steam Fire Engine and Reel, Goldsboro
  12. Greensboro Steam Fire Engine and Reel, Greensboro
  13. Hornet Reel Company, Charlotte
  14. Dick Blacknall Hose Company hose reel, Durham
  15. Dick Blacknall Reel Company hose reel, Durham
  16. Hook and Ladder Company No. 1., Raleigh
  17. Rescue Steam Fire Company No. 1 steamer and two reels, Raleigh
  18. Phoenix Chemical Engine Company, Raleigh
  19. Capital Hose Company No. 3 wagon and reel, Raleigh
  20. Independent Hose Company No. 4, Raleigh.

Contests begin in the afternoon. The Steamer Contests entrants report to the corner of Fayetteville and Davie Streets at 1:00 p.m. and beginning 30 minutes later in the order drawn. The Championship Reel Race companies report to the judges at 3:00 p.m. at the head of Fayetteville Street. The Horse Reel Race companies report to judges at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of New Berne Avenue and Person Street.

Wednesday, August 14

At 9:30 a.m., the Phoenix Chemical Engine Company of Raleigh will "make an exhibition of apparatus" on Fayetteville Street. At 11:30 a.m., the Phoenix Hook and Ladder Company of Columbia, SC will exhibit on Fayetteville Street. Following the exhibitions "will come foot races, wheelbarrow races, ox races, bag races, etc." Reel Race companies report to judges at 2:30 p.m. at the head of Fayetteville Street. Other contests will follow Reel Races.

Contest results:

  • Steamer Contents are entered by Goldsboro, New Berne, Raleigh, and Winston and won by Goldsboro for distance and New Berne for quickest stream.
  • Championship Reel Race is entered by Durham and two Raleigh companies and won by Capital Hose Company No. 3 of Raleigh.
  • Horse Reel Race is entered by Durham and two Raleigh companies and won by Raleigh Rescue Reel No. 5.
  • Foot Races are entered by runners from Charlotte, Columbia, Durham, Greensboro, New Bern, and Raleigh and won by William Pittman of Columbia who raced 100 yards in 10 3/4 seconds. Tom Daniels from New Berne takes second place with 11 seconds.
  • Reel Races are entered by Charlotte, Columbia, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh. The Capital Hose Company No. 3 wins the first race in 30 seconds, requiring running 150 yards and throwing water after attaching to a hydrant. The Greensboro team wins the second race in 24 seconds, requiring running 150 yards, grabbing the rope of the reel while running, carrying the hose to the hydrant, and flowing water.

The grand finale is a foot race between first and second place winners William Pittman and Tom Daniels. The race takes place at 7:00 p.m. and is won by Daniels, after which he is "borne vicariously on the shoulders of his adoring companions up and down through the crowd while the air was rent with cheers for a half hour." There is also a hundred-dollar stake on the race.

The firemen also meet during the two days and elect new officers, Raleigh Fire Chief E. B. Englehard as President, H. J. Elma of Greensboro as Secretary, and T. W. Blake from Raleigh as statistician. (August 13 and 14, 1889)noaug89

Main building at the Agricultural and Mechanical College burned. The early morning fire causes an estimated $1,000 damage. It is extinguished by both a bucket brigade of citizens and the chemical engine, which is ordered to the respond to the college, which is located outside of the city limits. (August 28, 1889)no28aug89.

Store at the corner of Wilmington and Hargett Street burned. The 6:00 a.m. morning fire is reported from Box 23. (October 26, 1889)no26oct89

Seven fire companies operated during fiscal year ending February 28, 1889:

Company Rescue Steam Fire Engine Phoenix Chemical Hook and Ladder Capital Hose Independent Hose Reel Victor Engine Bucket and Ladder
Foreman R. E. Lumsden A. H. Haynes A. J. Williams J. R. Ferrall J. S. Correll S. J. Hawkins, Jr. S. T. Stewart
Assistant Foreman J. C. Dobbin J. T. Nottingham Willis Fowler J. T. Davis H. L. Thomas T. B. Burgess William Jones
Members 28 31 24 25 22 50 25
Equipment Second-class Gould Steamer

2-wheel horse hose truck

4-wheel 2-horse hose truck

2-wheel hand hose truck

3 horses
Single cylinder engine

Double cylinder engine

2 horses
4-wheel hand truck 2-wheel hand reel 2-wheel hand reel 4-wheel hand engine

2-wheel hose truck
4-wheel hand truck
Quarters Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie streets Corner Davie and Salisbury streets Market House 115 W. Morgan Street E. Morgan Street near Blount Market House Market House
Chief E. B. Engelhard, Fire Chief


[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


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