05/05/08 429 W - + 16 - 7 Oldest Continually Operating Fire Company


The February-March edition of the Extra Alarmer, a buff’s publication from the Twin Cities, features an article on the oldest, continually operating fire company serving the city of Minneapolis. Reading same promptly compelled a question about Raleigh: what is the oldest, continually operating fire company serving our city?

Let’s go back to the end of 1912. Five volunteer fire companies stopped, and two fully-paid fire companies started. Hose Company 1 operated the equipment and occupied the facilities of the Capital Hose Company, organized and continuously operating since 1887. Hose Company 2 operated the equipment and occupied the facilities of the Rescue Hose Company, organized and continuously operating since 1870.

What about Hose Company 3, later Engine Company 3? Though they operated the equipment and occupied the facilities of the Victor Fire Company-- organized and continuously operating since 1869-- the city’s third fully-paid fire company was not placed in service until February 1913. Ergo, interruption of service.

What about the truck company? The first fully-paid ladder company was not placed in service until February 1916, a full four years after the volunteer Hook & Ladder Company was removed from service. Another interruption of service.

Is the answer Hose Company 2, later Engine Company 2? Maybe, maybe not. When Station 1 on Morgan Street was closed in 1941, three pieces of apparatus required relocation: an engine, a service ladder, and an aerial ladder. The “new” Station 1 on Salisbury Street had but a single bay, so both ladder trucks were moved to Station 2 at Memorial Auditorium. Engine 1 occupied Station 1, along with Engine 2. Or that was the plan.

Records suggest Engine 2 may have been removed from service for a period between 1941 and 1949. The latter is the year the service truck was moved to a dedicated Station 6, and thus freeing one of the spaces at Memorial Auditorium. During this time, a two-man squad truck also operated. Was it called Engine 2? Was it the second engine’s replacement? Alas, these facts are still unknown at this time.

That leaves Engine 1, which is at a minimum the second oldest, continually operating fire company serving the city of Raleigh. Organized as a Capital Hose Company in 1887, and replaced by Hose Company 1 in 1912. Thus, Engine 1 with 121 years of continual fire protection.

Future research may reveal that Engine 2 indeed takes the prize. Organized as the Rescue Steam Fire Engine Company in 1870, it was replaced by Hose Company 2 in 1912. And we can bump the Rescue period back by one year, as the organization was formed by members of the Merchants Independent Fire Company, which was organized in 1869.

Engine 2 with 139 years of continual fire protection? Could be.
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