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The history of the Rocky Mount Fire Department dates to 1894, when the mayor appointed two councilmen to "canvass the town and ascertain if a volunteer fire company could be organized." The first fire engine was purchased a year later and the first fire station was a rented building at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Sorsby's Alley. By 1924, the Rocky Mount Fire Department had two stations with six paid men, and 49 volunteers.
In neighboring Wilson, the first volunteer fire company was organized around 1880. The first fire engine was a steamer purchased in 1887 and the first fire station was located in the City Hall building on Goldsboro Street. The volunteer department was reorganized as a paid entity on August 1, 1938. Eleven full-time members filled the roster along with 26 paid "call men," volunteers who received a small monthly salary.
Old Station 2
404 South Church Street, Rocky Mount
Built 1924 / Closed 1977
Presently fire department offices and museum
Rocky Mount's second fire station opened Christmas Eve 1924. The two-story, 3,840 square-foot brick building first housed an American LaFrance pumper.
Behind the station, a separate one-story brick building housed the fire alarm system. An open shelter for drying hose was also located in the rear. A maintenance garage was later added onto the back side of the station.
In 1977, Station 2 was relocated to 824 South Grace Street. The old station was subsequently used for fire department storage, and also housed a tire-recapping company for several years.
In 2002, a year-long restoration was completed. The historic structure reopened as a fire museum and as offices for the fire prevention division.
Old Station 3
2621 Sunset Avenue, Rocky Mount
Built 1958 / Closed 1990
Presently jewelry company
Rocky Mount's third fire station was completed on October 4, 1958. The one-story, 4,531 square-foot brick building first housed a 1955 Seagrave pumper. It later housed the reserve aerial ladder, a 1956 American LaFrance tiller.
In 1990, Station 3 was relocated to 901 South Winstead Avenue. The old station was converted into offices for the fire prevention and training divisions.
The facility was closed in 1999 after flooding from Hurricane Dennis. It's presently occupied by a jewelry company.
Old Station 4
3041 North Church Street, Rocky Mount
Built 1970 / Closed 2000
Presently peanut company
Rocky Mount's fourth fire station was built in 1970 on a lot purchased from Eastern Warehouse Corporation.
The 4,900 square-foot brick building housed a single engine company. It later housed the fire department's restored 1896 steamer.
In 2000, Station 4 was relocated to 2054 Fenner Road. It's presently occupied by a peanut company.
Old Station 1
209 North Douglas Street, Wilson
Built 1926 / Closed 1985
Wilson's first modern-era station was constructed in 1926 after fire destroyed the municipal complex containing the original station on North Goldsboro Street.
The two-story, 6,840 square-foot structure included a separate building behind the station for the fire alarm system and storage. A hose house with drying racks was attached to the smaller building.
The three-bay building first housed a 1924 American LaFrance pumper, a 1919 American LaFrance pumper, and a Mack aerial ladder. The station also housed the fire department administrative offices.
In 1985, Station 1 was relocated to 307 West Hines Street. The old station reopened as a homeless shelter named Hope Station.
Old Station 2
300 Fairview Avenue, Wilson
Built 1952 / Closed 1989
Presently community resource center
Wilson's second station first housed a 1929 American LaFrance pumper and a 1924 American LaFrance pumper. The one-story, 3,322 square-foot building also housed the Wilson Fire Department hazardous materials team during the early 1980s.
In 1989, Station 2 was relocated to 1807 Forest Hills Road. The old station was subsequently used as a Wilson County EMS station. It presently serves as a community resource center.
Old Station 5
2313 Stantonsburg Road, Wilson
Built 1975 / Closed 1996
Presently police facility
Wilson Fire Department Station 5 was built in 1975 on the south side of town. The one-story, 4,915 square-foot building first housed a 1951 American LaFrance pumper.
In 1996, Station 5 was relocated to 3530 Airport Road on the west side of Wilson. The building is presently occupied by the Police Department and serves as offices and a training station.
Other Early Fire Stations
Rocky Mount Central Station. Photo courtesy Rocky
Mount Fire Department.
In Rocky Mount, the most prominent early fire station was located at 163 Northeast Main Street. Built by 1907 as part of a municipal complex, the station saw the adjoining buildings serve a number of functions ranging from town offices to a fish market. The complex was demolished in 1964 after Station 1 relocated to 101 South George Street. Prior to the Main Street location, the fire department was housed at 21 Sunset Avenue beginning about 1896.
In Wilson, the first fire station was located at 824 Goldsboro Street. As early as 1893, the two-story building housed the fire department on the first floor and City Hall on the second. By 1903, the building was renumbered 115 North Goldsboro Street. By 1908, additional buildings were added to the east side of the fire station. The two-story municipal complex included a courthouse, market house, and jail. It was destroyed by fire in 1924.
Rocky Mount Fire Department
Wilson Fire Department
Braswell Memorial Library
A centennial book about the Rocky Mount Fire Department was published in 1996. Search the Library Catalog for keywords "Rocky Mount Fire"
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps via NC LIVE
Requires password available from your local library. After logging into NC LIVE, click Browse Resources and select Maps
Rocky Mount / Wilson
A version of this article was published on FireNews.net on September 13, 2005.