Fairgrounds Fire Department (1961-1998)


See also Western Wake County fire departments family tree - JPG | PDF


  • Part I - Research from 2004
  • Part II - More History
  • Links and Sources
  • Family Tree - JPG | PDF

Part I - Research from 2004


1957, Western Boulevard Fire Department formed. See timeline


1961, organized after Western Boulevard Fire Department dissolves. Incorporated as Fairgrounds Rural Fire Department, Inc. (February 24, 1961) sos

1961, first Fire Chief is B. J. Abbott. First Assistant Chief is Dale Graham ar92

1961, fire station constructed at 1515 Blue Ridge Road. The one-story block building has two bays facing Blue Ridge Road.

1962, first apparatus includes:

  •  1957 (?) Chevy/American pumper originally utilized by Western Boulevard
  • 1959 International Harvester tanker, 2700 gallons

1962, three rows of display booths at Fairgrounds destroyed by fire. Worker at Red Star Oil Company spots blaze in exhibition building. Firefighters, including two Raleigh units, bring blaze under control in less than 20 minutes. (September 22, 1962) no23sep62

1963, Camp Polk mattress plant and woodwork warehouse destroyed by fire. Fire is discovered about 3 p.m. at warehouse. Winds fan flames and spread to nearby mattress factory. Total damage is about $58,000. Two fire companies from Raleigh assist. (November 14, 1963) rt15nov63, no15nov63

1964, portable restaurant at Fairgrounds destroyed by fire. Located between Dorton Arena and the Red Cross Lounge, the 50 by 100 foot eatery catches fire with around 6:20 p.m. Between 70 and 150 people are in the restaurant when the fire starts. First fire truck arrives at 6:32 p.m. Raleigh, Cary, and Apex respond as mutual aid. Fame of building collapses at 6:45 p.m. Damage is estimated at $100,000. Fire is watched by thousands of spectators. (October 13, 1964) no14oct64, rt14oct64

1965, Camp Polk woodworking shop suffers explosion and fire. One corner of the building is heavily damaged by 8:15 a.m. explosion. Fire is confined to one room. Raleigh Fire Department also responds with one unit from Station 5. (September 23, 1965) rt23sep65

1965, concession stands at State Fairgrounds burn. The 4 a.m. fire alarm sweeps through 315-stretch of stands. Public address system tower also gutted. Damage to stands is about $25,000. Three units and 22 volunteer firefighters battle blaze. Raleigh Fire Department also responds with five men and a pumper. (September 29, 1965) rt29sep65

1967 (?), apparatus delivery: 1967 tanker, 1500 gallons. wcfar

1968-69, fire station catches fire. Overflowing oil heater starts fire that doesn't combust. Interior is singed. Lenses on fire trucks are melted and paint is cracked. Discovered by passing firefighter. Interior is subsequently renovated. oh

1969, Wayside Furniture Company destroyed by fire. One firefighter is injured when a "burned out wall" falls on him during the 3 p.m. fire at 5425 Hillsborough Street Extension. B. J. Abbott, the Fairgrounds Fire Chief, is treated at Wake Memorial Hospital for "a leg broken in two places, cuts on his hands and first and second degree burns over his entire body" reports the March 29 edition of the News and Observer. Abbott was "hosing water on the burning building when the roof collapsed, knocking over a concrete block wall on him and showering him with burning debris from the roof." Four rural departments respond: Fairgrounds, Durham Highway, Yrac, and Swift Creek, as well as "units from the Raleigh Fire Department." The fire was "brought under control within about one hour." (March 28 1969)


1971, Line of duty death. Assistant Chief Norwood C. "Dick" Massengill, 57, dies on duty, after suffering heart attack while operating apparatus. Fire engine is wrecked beyond repair on Grand Avenue while returning from false alarm and collides with trees in residential yard. Accident occurs around 2:23 p.m. He is found dead upon arrival of the Raleigh Fire Department rescue squad. Funeral services are held on February 12, at Apex Funeral Home and burial at Montlawn Memorial Park in Raleigh. Massengill, a mechanic, was a charter member of FFD. (February 10, 1971) oh, rfd

1974 (?), apparatus deliveries: wcfar

  • 1974 Chevrolet/American LaFrance pumper, 750 GPM, 750 gallons
  • 1974 Dodge equipment van, with "quick mount air packs, generators, and lights."

1975, annual meeting held at 8:00 p.m. at the fire station. (April 17, 1975) fdr

1975 (?), apparatus delivery: 1975 American LaFrance mini-pumper. wcfar

mid-1970s, station improvements:

  • day room added in rear of building. Firefighters construct same over a series of Monday night meetings.
  • two additional apparatus bays. Female workers through government work program complete same. Fire department pays only cost of materials. Completion takes about a year. oh


1985, Tanker 197 overturns on Blue Ridge Road near the entrance to the art museum. The Chevrolet/Atlas tanker swerved to avoid a car that had made a u-turn, and hit a curb and overturned. The driver of the fire truck, Richard "Will" Ernest, was treated at Rex Hospital and released. (November 11, 1985)no

1985 (?), apparatus deliveries:

  • 1985 Kenworth/Grumman Firecat pumper/tanker, 1250 GPM, 2500 gallons. Placed in service as Engine 196/
  • 1985 Ford/Grumman Firecat tanker, 350 GPM, 1500 gallons. Placed in service as Tanker 198/

1987, furniture store on Bashford Road burns. Numerous fire departments respond. (January 1987) oh


1992, fire department moves into new station at 4120 District Drive. Building has 6,536 square-feet with six bays, sleeping quarters, and other rooms. Former station is located on state property, and the Department of Transportation sought to expand its maintenance yard. New location is also leased from the state. Reports the News & Observer on March 30, 1990, the 6,400 square-foot station will be twice the size of the current, and cost between $320,000 to $340,000. Funding will include the department's savings, fire tax revenues, fire protection contracts with Raleigh and the state, and a $140,000 grant from the state. (April 25, 1992) ar92, no30mar90

1992, Fire Chief is Percy Evans/ (April 25, 1992) ar92

1996, January 30 – Special Services 19 placed in service. The specialized emergency response unit carries equipment for responder rehab and medical surveillance, including foods and liquids. The unit is operated by the Fairgrounds FD, who are contracted by Wake County Public Safety.

Procedure for dispatching the unit:

  1. Unit should be requested by incident commander.
  2. WC1 should be paged and made aware of reque
  3. WC1 will indicate whether or not to dispatch SS19, based on availability and other events occurring in the county.
  4. Fairgrounds FD will be dispatched to respond with SS19. WC1 can also request the unit directly from FFD.

Basic criteria for incident commanders should be when multiple departments are involved and more than 25 emergency workers are involved, or mass transportation is involved.

The unit is equipped with VHF, UHF, and 800 MHz radios. It’s designed to support county emergency personnel, and is not intended as a substitute for Salvation Army or Red Cross services. It’s available to any fire department within Wake County.

SS19 operates a converted modular ambulance. Later a trailer with additional supplies is added. Both units are removed from service in 2000, with Wake County Public Safety citing budget issues. In 2007, the county resumes scene support and rehab with Truck 1 operated by Wake County EMS. Sources: WCPS memo, Oral Histories.

1997, September – Body transport program activated.

  • Overview:
    • Extension of Special Services agreement between county and Fairgrounds FD.
    • Funded by county, operated by Fairgrounds FD.
    • For transport of deceased persons from crime, fire, or accident scenes, to state office of medical examiner in Chapel Hill.
  • Scope:
    • Service for law enforcement agencies with a deceased body from a crime, fire, or accident scene that meets criteria to be a Medical Examiner case.
    • Bodies that do not meet this criteria are not expected to be transported.
    • Bodies from county or state detention facilities also exempt from transportation criteria.
    • Service not intended for transportation to or from private funeral home facilities.
  • Activation:
    • Requested through Raleigh/Wake ECC.
    • Unit designated WC-7.
    • Cargo van with communications and stretcher equipment.
    • Should arrive on scene within one hour, or drive time from Fairgrounds fire station plus about fifteen minutes.
    • In the event unit isn’t available, a secondary provider will be contacted by the ECC.
  • Operation:
    • Fairgrounds FD responsible for operation.
    • Department responsible for providing two personnel on call at all times.
    • They must complete a nine-hour block of training.
    • They can be members or employees of Fairgrounds FD, or other county fire departments.
  • Funding:
    • County provides van and equipment, fuel and maintenance.
    • County provides $20,000 for the fiscal year.
    • Fairgrounds FD to seek to recover all possible funding from state office of medical examiner.
    • They are also free to solicit other public funding.
    • Families of persons transported are not to be charged for services rendered.
  • Review
    • County will assemble and support an advisory board for program.
    • Group will meet twice annually to review and make recommendations about program.
  • Source: WCPS Memo, September 16, 1997.

1998, fire department merges with Yrac Fire Department, forming Western Wake Fire Department. (July 1, 1998)

Part II - More History

Fairgrounds Fire Department Articles of Incorporation

January 19, 2013 - Source

Here's a scan of a photocopy of the articles incorporation of the Fairgrounds Fire Department, which operated from 1961 to 1998. The scan is from a photocopy requested from the Secretary of State in August 1992. The articles were signed February 23, 1961. What's interesting is that articles name the department Fairgrounds, plural, but their trucks bore the name Fairground, singular, for years. Read the FFD history, or read the articles of incorporation (PDF). The incorporators were:

  • James H. Walker
  • F. D. Graham
  • H. G. Finch
  • J. Wilbur Doyle
  • Kidd Brewer

The first board of directors were:

  • J. E. Tyson
  • Ira O. Schaub Jr.
  • B. J. Abbott
  • James H. Walker
  • J. M. Adams
  • F. D. Graham
  • H. G. Finch
  • J. Wilbur Doyle
  • Wade E. Griffin
  • Kidd Brewer
  • V. A. Mason
  • N. R. Morgan
Many or maybe all of these were members of the Western Boulevard Fire Department, which operated from 1957 to 1960. Read the WBFD history.

Links and Sources

Fire Chiefs

See Wake County Fire Chiefs (pdf).


See Wake County apparatus register (pdf).


Raleigh Fire Museum photo albums.


  • ar92 Fairgrounds Fire Department Annual Report 1992
  • cfd Cary Fire Department records
  • dah NC Department of Archives and History
  • fdr Fire department records
  • oh Oral history
  • rt Raleigh Times
  • sos NC Department of the Secretary of State
  • wcfa Wake County Firemen's Association records

Last updated: January 5, 2017


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