Raleigh Fire Department Steamers

1870 - Rescue Steam Fire Engine Company incorporated on February 24, 1870. Raleigh's first steam-powered fire engine is delivered on April 5, 1870. Built by the Gould Company of Newark, NJ, the second-class (or second-size) steamer has a capacity of 600 gallons per-minute (GPM) and shoots a vertical stream of water 126 feet. As the volunteer fire company does not own any horses, the steamer is hand-pulled for the first nine years. The city also provides a hand-drawn hose carriage for the fire company's use.

1885 - Gould steamer rides a railroad flatcar to fight a hotel fire in Fayetteville on November 5, 1885.

1887 - City water system is completed with 120 fire hydrants.
Hose carts become primary firefighting apparatus as firefighters can connect hoses directly to hydrants and without the need of pumping engines.

1888 - Sanborn fire insurance map lists department apparatus as including one hand engine, one steam engine, two chemical engines, two hook and ladder trucks, and four hose carts.

1891 - Report for fiscal year ending February 28, 1891 lists Gould steamer in reserve.

1897 - Gould steamer rides a railroad flatcar to fight a fire in downtown Durham on October 14, 1897. Along with hose, a hose wagon, and about twenty-five firemen, the special Southern Railway train reaches Durham in just 35 minutes. Upon arrival, the nearly $250,000 blaze has just been brought under control.

1903 - Sanborn map dated July 1903 lists Gould steamer in reserve.

1903 - Fire Commission submits report to City Commissioners on September 4, 1903 that the "steamer is worthless and cannot be used until repaired. It will be necessary to put in a new boiler and probably make some slight changes in the running works. The cost will approximately $700. In case of accident to water system, the city will be without fire protection without a steamer. We therefore recommend that the city have the steamer repaired."

1904 - Finance Commission recommends to City Commissioners that fire department be authorized to repair steam fire engine.

1905 - Report for fiscal year ending February 28, 1905 lists Gould steamer as "out of repair."

1905 - Finance Committee of Board of Alderman purchases a new American LaFrance steam engine on April 10, 1905. The price paid is $4,600, of which $1,600 is cash. The rest is to be paid in nine months.





1905 - Raleigh's second steam-powered fire engine is demonstrated during an acceptance test at the corner of Fayetteville and Davie Streets on July 12, 1905. The third-size (or third-class) steamer has a capacity of 600 GPM and replaces the old Gould. The nameplate on the apparatus presently reads "Built by American LaFrance Fire Engine Co., Seneca Falls, NY, No. 3061." The remaining payment is authorized on September 9, 1905.

1906 - Rescue Steam Fire Engine Company No. 2 organized by June 1, 1906. Charter members are William Brewer, Edward Ennis, R. T. Gowan, E. T. Hall, Jr., T. B. Heartt, and S. L. Johnson.

1906 - Rescue Steam Fire Engine Company No. 2 receives approval to change name to L. A. Mahler Steamer Company on June 29, 1906.

1908 - American LaFrance steamer rides a railroad flatcar to fight a fire at the largest building in Cary on February 25, 1908.

1908 - Gould steamer still owned by city on June 13, 1908, but cannot be used.

1912 - Full-time, fully-paid fire department placed in service on December 23, 1912. The American LaFrance steamer is stored at Station 1 on West Morgan Street.

1913 - American LaFrance steamer used at News & Observer building on West Martin Street on April 24, 1913. After a water main breaks, Fire Chief Sherwood Brockwell directs the steamer to the intersection of Fayetteville and Davie streets to draw water from one of the old underground cisterns.

1915 - The last horse is retired from duty. The remaining horse-drawn apparatus, including the American LaFrance steamer, are motor-pulled with a trailer hitch.

1918 - Annual report notes American LaFrance steamer answers only in Fire District and on "emergency calls."

1931 - National Board of Fire Underwriters report lists American LaFrance steamer in reserve.

19__- Steamer procured by State College professor Charles B. Park and placed at engineering school.

1947 - American LaFrance steamer serves as auxiliary fire pump at State Fairgrounds. Scheduled for disposal, the steamer is returned to the Raleigh Fire Department through the intervention of fire buff Bob Biggs. He drives the steamer back to the Raleigh using a pair of horses from either State College or Meredith College.

1978 - American LaFrance steamer is pulled by mules for Christmas parade. Because of an ordinance at the time prohibiting horses on city streets, the City Manager allows a pair of mules provided by Carl Davis, father of firefighter Jan Parker. Dry ice in the chimney simulates smoke. Shortly afterward, the steamer is transferred to a special trailer.


2012 - American LaFrance steamer is restored to operating condition for the centennial anniversary of the Raleigh Fire Department, by a group of firefighters and steam engine enthusiasts led by Capt. Michael Ezzell, Asst. Chief Bert Richards, and Lt. Patrick Murphy.