Falls Fire Department (1970-2012) History

Last updated: July 2, 2020

This document contains research notes about the history of the Falls Fire Department. The information was first compiled in 2004.


Part I - Timeline


1970, established.

Residents form the Falls of Neuse Fire Board, headed by Linwood Barham.

Fundraising starts around April 1970. Donations requested of $10 per residence or business. Anyone who donates becomes voting member. Raised $3,060 through first-year fundraising. 

Incorporated as Falls Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. on July 7, 1970.

Approved by county on  October 5, 1970, at request of County Civil Defense Director John C. Throne. County commissioners adopt resolution officially recognizing the boundaries of the fire district, that the department begin receiving $1,000 for use as fifty-percent matching funds to purchase $2,000 of communications, and to begin receiving monthly financial assistance payments affective the first day of the month following certification of their qualifications by the Wake County Fire Commission.wakeboc05oct70

Fire district is eleven square miles roughly bordering a six-mile stretch of Falls of Neuse Road. Borders include railroad trucks on Durant Road to the east, Falls of the Neuse to about present site of Ravenscroft School to the south. It meets the state requirement than the entire service area be within four miles of the fire station.

First Fire Chief is Sam Perry.

Fire department has twenty-one members.

Members are summoned to the fire station with a siren. The department is linked with eighteen other rural fire districts through a radio system, which is operated by the Raleigh Fire Department at Central Fire Station.

The number of members and specific equipment has been specified by the state Fire Insurance Rating Bureau.

First fire apparatus:

First fire station is Falls Community Clubhouse at 11908 Falls of the Neuse Road, with two added apparatus bays. Verbal contract between fire department and Community Club makes clubhouse available provided firefighters maintain building.

Sources: Oral history, New & Observer, October 1, 1970

1970 - Falls Fire Department was assigned Wake County fire station number 21.

1970 - The first piece of apparatus was a former Durham Highway rig, a converted Army 2 1/2-ton truck with 1,400 gallon tank. Purchased for $500, with money raised through fundraisers, donations, and $10 memberships for residents of the Falls Fire District.

1970 - The second piece of apparatus is a 1956 Ford/American/Barton pumper, 500/500. Purchased from Six Forks Fire Department for $2,500. The Ladies Auxiliary paid for most of the purchase, using money made from barbecues and craft shoes.

1971 - Special election held for district residents to approve special tax district for fire department. Levy would be ten cents on each $100 of assessed property value. (December 4, 1971)no27oct71.

1974 - Apparatus delivery: 1973 Chevrolet tanker. Purchased their first new truck chassis and remounted a 1,200 gallon tank from an oil tanker. It was also modified with a quick-dump system.

1977 - Apparatus delivery: 1978 FMC/Bean pumper, 750/750. First new fire engine purchased with increased tax revenues, fundraisers, donations, and an FHA loan.

Early apparatus:


Station improvements: two additional apparatus bays added

Later apparatus:

1984 - First Responder program started due to slow responses of EMS units responding from Raleigh, Six Forks, and Wake Forest. Linwood E. Barham, an early member, taught the First Responder class twice weekly. First females joined the department as a result of the program.

1980s - Two additional apparatus bays added to fire station.

1987 - Apparatus delivery: 1987 Ford/E-One pumper-tanker, 1250/1000. Named Engine 210, later changed to Engine 212.

1989 - Apparatus delivery: 1989 Ford/E-One pumper-tanker, 1250/1000. Named Tanker 217.

1980s, late - First paid personnel hired for daytime hours. Day shift hired in lieu of buying the land across the street for a new fire station as funds would not allow for both. 


Station improvements: fifth apparatus bay added in rear. Front right apparatus bay converted to office space.

Apparatus deliveries:

1990s - Fifth apparatus bay added in rear of building. The front right apparatus bay is converted to an office.

1990 - North Wake landfill burns. Blaze involves between 300 and 500 tires and a 40-foot trailer. Fire starts about 8:00 p.m. Units from Raleigh and Wake County battle the blaze through the evening and into the next day. (October 30, 1990)no31oct90

1994 - Apparatus delivery: 1994 E-One Sentry pumper-tanker, 1250/100. Named Engine 211.

1997 - Chris Wilson appointed Fire Chief.

2002 - Duty crew program placed in service for volunteers to fully staff apparatus on nights and weekends.

2003 - Falls Fire Department designs a new patch that incorporates the Falls of Neuse Bridge, the river, and the cotton mill.

2003 - Vehicle deliveries:

2005 - Apparatus delivery: 2005 Ford F-550 Super Duty 250/300. Replaced 1984 Chevrolet brush truck.

2006 - Apparatus delivery: 2006 Rescue One Connector boat. The 16-foot is equipped with a 40 HP Mercury, four-stroke outboard motor, front mount dive platform, center console navigation, 500 GPM integrated pump with hard suction, 1.5'' discharge, and deluge gun, and various water rescue equipment. The boat is used in conjunction with other Rescue One Connector Boats stationed at Stony Hill and Bayleaf Fire Department to form a floating platform used in rescue and recovery operations. Purchased with a $26,420 grant from Fireman's Fund Insurance.

2007 - Apparatus delivery: 2007 Pierce Contender pumper-tanker, 1250/1000/20. Designated Pumper 212. Dedication ceremony on June 16. (Summer 2007)

2008 - Duty crew program begins paying volunteers $25 a night.

2009 - Falls Fire Department cookbook created and sold. Compiled by the Ladies Auxiliary and their families, the softcover, spiral-bound volume features 350 recipes, and includes recipes that appeared in the original Ladies Auxiliary cookbook in the late 1970s/early 1980s. With colored tabs separating the categories, it also includes a history of the department, information about the ladies auxiliary, and other bits

2009 - Apparatus delivery: 2009 Pierce Contender pumper-tanker, 1250/1000. Delivered April 24, 2009. Replaces Tanker 217, the 1989 Ford/E-One. (Spring 2009)

2010 - Falls Fire Department celebrates 40th anniversary and produces challenge coins for members.

2011 - Declaration of intent to merge with Wake Forest Fire Department is signed by the two fire chiefs at WFFD Station 1 on July 25, 2011.

2012 - Falls Fire Department merges with Wake Forest Fire Department. The Falls fire station becomes WFFD Station 5, and the equipment assigned is Engine 5, Tanker 5, Squad 5, Fire Boat 5, Utility 5 and Car 6. Station is staffed with part-time employees on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and fully staffed by volunteers on nights and weekends. (March 25, 2012)

More History

Falls Lake History Postings


Falls, Wake Forest Fire Departments Celebrate Merger on Sunday, March 25

March 22, 2012 - Source

At 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 25, a ceremony will be conducted at the Falls Fire Department at 11908 Falls of Neuse Road, to commemorate and celebrate the department's merger with the Wake Forest Fire Department. The departments signed an operational consolidation contract on July 25, 2011. The merger was first proposed in 2009, and originally included ideas to close the Falls fire station. 

The Falls fire station will be renamed Wake Forest Station 5, and will retain the nickname "Home of the River Rats." The apparatus will be renumbered to include Engine 5, Tanker 5, Squad 5, Brush 5, Utility 5, Boat 5, and Car 6. (Wake Forest Station 4 is in the planning stages, and mostly recently in the news regarding town officials discussing funding. It will be located on the northwest side of town.)

Personnel from the Falls FD staff will serve in roles such as Asst. Chief of Volunteer Operations, Battalion Chiefs, and Captains. The response area of Falls and Wake Forest fire departments will be merged. The result will add a ladder response to some current Falls responses. 

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Fire District Maps

These maps were distributed at Thursday night's Wake County Fire Commission meeting. The map on the left shows the current fire district boundaries for Falls, Wakette (the Wake Forest rural district), Wake Forest, and nearby Raleigh and Rolesville. Note the planned location for Wake Forest Station 4. The map on the right shows the proposed expanded Wakette fire district, now incorporating the Falls fire district. Click to enlarge:


Established in 1970

The Falls Fire Department was established in 1970. They were incorporated on July 7, 1970. Donations were requested of $10 per residence or business, and anyone who donated became a voting member. The fire department raised $3,060 that first year. The fire district limit included east to the railroad tracks on Durant Road, and south on Falls of Neuse Road to the present location of Ravenscroft School.

Sam Perry was the first fire chief. The Falls Community Clubhouse became the fire house. Two fire engines were obtained, a 1956 Ford/American pumper from Six Forks FD and a 1966 military 6x6 tanker from Durham Highway FD.

Earlier Mergers

This is the second merger for the Wake Forest Fire Department. On July 1, 1983, the Wake Forest municipal fire department and Wake Forest Rural Fire Department merged. Their districts were joined. Wake Forest Fire Department Inc. was chartered. At or about the same time, the town's second fire department was also merged into the organization, Wake Forest Fire Department #2, shown below, which operated from a fire station on Taylor Street.

Other fire department mergers in Wake County have included Six Forks Fire Department (1956-2002), which merged with the Bay Leaf Fire Department in 2002. And Fairgrounds Fire Department (1961-1998) and Yrac Fire Department (1961-1998), which merged to form Westen Wake Fire Department in 1998. Plus a number of mergers of town and rural fire departments, in such places as Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs, Morrisville, and Zebulon.


Early History of Falls Fire Department

April 3, 2012 - Source

Here's an early history of the Falls Fire Department, which merged last weekend with the Wake Forest Fire Department. A version of this history was read during the ceremony by Asst. Chief Marcus Wells.


The Falls community developed around the falls of the Neuse River in northern Wake County. The Falls of Neuse Community Club was incorporated with the state on November 19, 1954. Land for a community center at the presently addressed 11908 Falls of Neuse Road was donated in November 1954 by Erwin Cotton Mills. The lot size was 0.29 acres.1

Rural fire protection in the county started during that decade, with unincorporated communities around Raleigh and Wake Forest protected by newly forming fire departments such as Six Forks, Stony Hill, and Western Boulevard.

By the late 1960s, the Falls community relied upon fire protection from Stony Hill, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Wake-New Hope, Six Forks, and Bay Leaf fire departments. Each of those fire stations, however, was a fair distance from the community.

In 1969, the Falls Community Club, and with the advisement of then county commissioner Hal Trentman, took on the organization of the fire department as their project.


The Falls Volunteer Fire Department was incorporated with the state on July 7, 1970. Listed on the Articles of Incorporation were five directors:

The incorporators were listed as

First Apparatus

They purchased their first piece of fire apparatus was a converted Army 2 1/2-ton, three-axle truck with a 1,400 gallon water tank. The truck was purchased for $500 from the Durham Highway Fire Department. The money was raised through fundraisers, donations, and charging district patrons $10 to join the Falls Fire District Inc.

The second piece of fire apparatus purchased was a 1956 Ford/American pumper with a front mounted Barton pump. It was equipped with a 500 GPM pump and carried 500 gallons of water. It was bought from Six Forks Fire Department for $2,500.2 The Ladies Auxiliary paid for most of the purchase, with money made from barbecues and craft shows.

Training and Equipment

The first Fire Chief was the late Sam Perry and the department had 24 members at the start. They received permission from the Falls Community Club to build two apparatus to be attached to the community center building. Most of the work was done by members of the department and was finished by contracted builders. Two years later, two more bays were added.

Firefighting equipment was purchased as money became available, while neighboring fire departments donated hose, nozzles, and more. Training was provided by Captain Jimmy Warren of the Raleigh Fire Department. He came out once a week and taught basic firefighting to the members. At the time, only one member had any prior firefighting experience.

In the early years of the department, several members would attend a yearly week-long class at Wilson Technical Community College to get their training.

Water and Taxes

Since the nearest fire hydrants were 8 to 10 miles away, it became apparent that more water was needed in case there was a large fire. The department purchased a used oil truck from one of the local oil distributors. This unit was used as a second tanker. All three vehicles were parked in the two bays, until the other two bays were added.

On October 5, 1970 (see below), the Wake County Commissioners recognized Falls Volunteer Fire Department Inc. as a county department. A referendum was [later?] held and the residents of the Falls Fire District were asked to vote on receiving a 10 cent on the $100 dollar valuation of taxed property to support the fire department. The referendum passed by a vote of 42 for and two against. The first full year of tax revenues was $3,060.

Wake County provided each rural fire department $125 per month at the time, and also matched funds for communication equipment. The county's rural fire departments (18 plus Falls) were dispatched by the Raleigh Fire Department, from a communications center at Station 1.

Fire District

On October 5, 1970, County Civil Defense Director John C. Throne asked county commissioners to recognize the new Falls Fire Department district and approve its boundaries. They were presumably approved on that date.

The approval would allow the department to start operation, and which would result in lower fire insurance rates for residents. The fire department had 21 men at the time. The Board of Directors was led by Linwood Barham.

The 11-square mile district roughly bordered a six-mile stretch of Falls of Neuse Road, south to the present Ravenscroft School, east on Durant Road (then named Neuse Road) to the railroad tracks, west to Six Forks Road, and north to Highway 98. The district also included a northern section of Litchford Road.

The Falls Fire Department was assigned the Wake County fire station number 21.

More Apparatus

In 1974, the department bought its first new fire truck chassis. They mounted the 1,200-gallon tank from the oil tanker onto the 1973 Chevrolet chassis. The tank was also modified for a quick dump system. In 1977, with increased tax revenues, fundraisers, donations, and a loan from FHA, the department purchased its first completely new truck, a 1978 FMC/Bean pumper with a 750 GPM pump and a 750 gallon tank.

Other early and later apparatus:

Falls Lake

In 1978, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started construction of a dam at the river falls. Before that time, flooding of the Neuse River caused extensive damage to public and private properties down river. The Falls Lake project was created as a flood-control solution. The dam that holds the lake was completed in 1981. Among the changes created by the lake was the demolition of the Six Forks Road bridge. Today, Falls Lake is a 12,410 acre reservoir that extends into Durham and Granville counties.

First Responder

In the early 1980s, fire departments in Wake County began offering First Responder services. In 1984, the Falls Fire Department initiated the program. The decision was made due to the length response times of EMS units responding from Raleigh (Wake County EMS), Six Forks (Six Forks EMS), and Wake Forest (Northern Wake EMS).

Linwood E. Barham, a charter member, taught the First Responder class twice weekly. The first females also joined the fire department as a result of the First Responder program.

Paid Members and Duty Crews

In the 1980s, the call volume was increasing and the need for daytime personnel was growing. The department was also looking into buying land across the street from the community center for a new fire station. Since the department was not receiving enough revenues from the fire district tax base to do both, they decided to hire paid day personnel instead of buying land.

The first all-volunteer duty crew was started in 2002. They were paid beginning in 2008, and received 25 dollars a night.

River Rats

The department's nickname "River Rats" was used by Falls Community members when they played baseball against Stony Hill Community members, the "Possums". The community members took the name from a group of local young men in the community that called themselves "The River Rats."

1Erwin Mills operated in a three-story granite building that's still standing. The structure was built in 1890 and expanded in 1895. The following year, it was converted from a paper mill to a textile mille. The names changed over the years until finally Erwin Mills. The textile operations, mainly warehousing, discontinued in 1959. The building was renovated for condominiums, which were completed in 1996.

2Both pieces of apparatus were the first fire engines for the Durham Highway and Six Forks fire departments, respectively.


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