Raleigh Fire Department History

1860-1869



1900

Four fire companies protecting 1.8 square miles and 13,643 residents.


Fleming's Warehouse at corner of Wilmington and Cabarrus streets burns. Two homes and a stable also destroyed, due to lack of water pressure. Alarm reported shortly before 10:00 a.m. from Box 27. Loss about $25,000. Warehouse, at least three stories and built 1885, and contents burn, also partially destroying neighboring property. Caused by defective flue. The contents continue to smolder and the fire department receives two or three still alarms, to continue wetting the remains. [MF] (February 28, 1900)no29feb00

Engine house at A&M College burns. The fire is discovered at 11:50 p.m.. Flames are fought by college students. Chief Mahler takes the Capital Company hose wagon to the scene, but no water is present in the building reservoir and the hose is not used. The building is allowed to burn down, and efforts are made only to prevent the spread. By 1:30 a.m., the fire is dying down. Loss $200. [UF] (March 7, 1900)no07mar00, 08mar00

Old ice factory near Union Depot burns. One of the horses of the Capital Hose Company, which extinguishes the fire, drops dead in the stable after returning to quarters. The cause of death is supposed as a ruptured blood vessel while responding to the fire. [UF] (June 3, 1900)no05jun00

Fire department members attend but do not compete in North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Wilmington. (July 11-13, 1900)nojul00

Holman Mill on Fayetteville Road burns. The fire is reported at 11:00 p.m. The mill is located outside the city and several hundred yards from a fire hydrant. Firefighters respond promptly, but can only assist with saving property in and around the building. Two colored firefighters are slightly hurt by a piece of falling tin. The mill has burned three times prior, the last time about two years ago. Both the mill and the gin are destroyed, with only seven bales of cotton saved. Loss about $2,000. [UF] (July 18, 1900)no19jul00

Chief Mahler travels to northern cities to investigate paid departments. The plan suggested for Raleigh has each of three hose companies retained in their present forms, but with a paid foreman and ten members in each company. Each man would receive a salary of about $100 a year, with the foreman making more. Gongs would be placed in the homes of each of the ten members. (August 1900)no17aug00

Victor Company attends North Carolina Colored Firemen's Association tournament in Salisbury. Convened at the courthouse, the proceedings were called to order at 9:30 a.m. Hand engine and hose reel contests took place on the second day, and the remaining competitions took place on the third day. The Victor Hose Reel Company won first place in the hand hose reel contest, completing the 150 yards in 33 1/3 seconds. The company also wins first prize in the grab race. (September 11, 1900)


Four fire companies operating during fiscal year ending February 28, 1900:

Company Rescue No. 1 Hook and Ladder No. 1 Capital Hose No. 3 Victor Hose No. 2
Foreman R. E. Lumsden W. W. Parrish John R. Ferrall Sylvester Dunston
Assistant F. Brenig R. G. Upchurch E. B. Bain W. H. Palmer
Members 23 13 25 26
Equipment
  • three 2 horse hose wagons, each carrying 1000' of rubber-lined cotton hose
  • one hook and ladder truck
  • eight horses
  • one Gould steamer in reserve
Other 127 public hydrants, 15 private hydrants, 30 alarm boxes
Chief L. A. Mahler, Fire Chief
Assistant Walter Woollcott, Assistant Chief

Department answers 39 alarms with total losses of $30,498.63, with insurance covering $25,022.13 as of February 28, 1900.ar

City directory dated 1899-1900 summarizes fire department as:

  • Committee on Fire Department: C. C. McDonald, Chairman; Mayor A. M. Powell, J. S. Correll, G. M. Spence
  • Chief: L. A. Mahler
  • Assistant Chief: Walter Woollcott
  • Hook and Ladder Company No. 1
  • Rescue Company No. 1, 22 members
  • Capital Hose Company No. 3, 25 members
  • Victor Company No. 2, 27 members
  • Total membership: 90 members
  • Eleven paid and part paid members

1901

Raleigh Knitting Mills in western part of city destroyed by fire. The 12:30 a.m. blaze, near the Seaboard Air Line Railway track, also destroys a boxcar of goods. Loss is nearly $25,000. The facility was in the process of moving to a new, nearby building. The blaze is believed caused by sparks from a passing locomotive. [MF] (February 15, 1901)no15feb01

Building on South West Street burns . Alarm received at 5:20 p.m. from Box 36. Damage $300. Cause unknown. Owner L. G. Rogers. Occupant Annie Richardson. The alarm is received just after Senator James D. McNeill, who is president of the State Firemen's Association, turns in an alarm, to give an exhibition to visiting firemen and legislators. He is meeting with fire chiefs from around the state, in regard to legislation for fire companies. [UF] (March 4, 1901)ar, no06mar01

Lonnie H. Lumsden elected Chief of Department. (June 8, 1901)no09jun01

Fire department members attend North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Charlotte. (July 24-26, 1901)nojul01

Restaurant burns at State Fair. About 3:30 a.m., a wooden building containing a small restaurant is discovered aflame. It is located in the center of the Midway, between the booth of the "Alligator Boy" and a "snake show." Many hear screams from the burning building and efforts are made, but fail, to open the door. After the fire is out, the body of a young boy is found. There is also a report of $350 stolen from the "Alligator Boy" both, as well as foodstuffs stolen from a restaurant by some of the hundreds of "Midway people" at the fire. Unknown if fire department responds, or is even notified of the blaze. [UF] (October 25, 1901)no26oct01

Watauga Building at A&M College burns. Fire is discovered about 11:00 p.m. and destroys the combination dining hall, kitchen, and dormitory for fifty students. No residents are injured. Flames are discovered on the kitchen floor, appearing to start near the range and subsequently spreading with "remarkable rapidity." Three streams of water are turned onto the building from the college's water supply, with the "valiant students" organizing themselves into brigades. The Raleigh Fire Department is also summoned and responds with " the hook and ladder truck" and " hose wagons," but ends up being "of little assistance." The "brilliancy of the flames" is visible for miles and hundreds of people gather at the college, located a half-mile from the city limits, to watch the fire. Loss is $10,000. [MF] (November 29, 1901)ncsuscr, no01dec01


Raleigh Water Company sold to Wake Water Company. rt07sep15

1902

Fire department hosts North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament. Over thirty-two fire companies participate in the tournament, from cities and towns including Burlington, Charlotte, Concord, Durham, Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Henderson, High Point, New Bern, Rocky Mount, Salisbury, Salem, Southern Pines, Spencer, Washington, Wilson, and Winston. Raleigh's Hook and Ladder Company breaks a "world's record" in their contest, competing against Greensboro. The Capital Hose Company also breaks a "world's record," competing against Charlotte, Concord, Raleigh's Rescue Hose Company, Salem, Spencer, and Tarboro. The Capital Hose Company also wins the Championship Reel Race after all other companies fail to "make a proper connection." The tournament also marks the last public appearance of the Rescue Company's 1870 steam fire engine. At the corner of Fayetteville and Davie Streets, company members compete in the "long distance" contest. To commemorate the victories of the Capital and Hook and Ladder companies, a barbecue is held on August 14 at the State Fair building. Over 300 people are present, including the Rescue, Capital, and Hook and Ladder companies as well as state, county, and city officers and other distinguished citizens. The menu consists of pig, chicken, and other meats, Brunswick stew, potato salad, tomatoes, and other trimmings. Ice-cold water, "huge tubs of lemonade," and other liquid refreshments are present. Finally, the " cigars in profusion" top off the dinner. Some speeches are made and some sports events engaged in, including ball games and a race between two horses. (July 23-25, 1902)nojul02

Victor Company hosts North Carolina Colored Firemen's Association tournament. The Victor Company hosts the event in Metropolitan Hall. The approval for the building is approved on August 1, along with a request for "25 uniforms consisting of cap, shirt, belt, and trousers at a cost not exceeding $62.50." The program:

Tuesday, August 26
9:00 a.m. Convention called to order by President J. S. Plummer. Prayer by William M. Walters, Rocky Mount, N.C. Address of welcome by Mr. C. L. Lumsden of the Capital Hose Reel Company. Response by L. R. Randolph, Washington, N.C. Regular order of business.

Wednesday, August 27
9:00 a.m. Street Parade
11:00 a.m. Hand Engine Contest - First place $25, second place $15
2:00 p.m. Hook and Ladder Contest - First place $25, second place $15
3:30 p.m. Championship Hand Reel Contest - First place State Belt
5:00 p.m. Chemical Contest - First place $5, second place $2.50
8:30 p.m. Oriental Dramatic Company presents a drama in three acts, "Saved from the Wreck."

Thursday, August 28
10:00 a.m. Hose Wagon Race - First place $20, second place $10
11:00 a.m. Hand Reel Contest - First place $30, second place $15, third place $5
2:00 p.m. Grab Reel Contest - First place $20, second place $10, third place $5
3:30 p.m. Special Feature Races - Wheelbarrow race $2, foot race $2.50

Among the many committees contributing to the organization of the event are the Governing Committee, the Music Committee, the Soliciting Committee, the Executive Committee, the Provision Committee, the Track and Water Committee, the Reception Committee, the Entertainment Committee, the Public Comfort Committee, and the Auditing Committee. Monetary contributors included the Capital Hose Company ($25), the Rescue Hose Company ($15), First Baptist Sunday School ($6), Captain S. E. Linton ($5), House of Ruth No. 1 ($5), House of Ruth No. 2 ($5),Jerusalem Lodge No. 6 ($5), Saint Ambrose Church ($4), the Victor Ladies ($3.80), Saint Matthew's Church ($1.25), and E. A. Johnson ($1). The parade took place on Fayetteville Street with enormous crowns lining the sidewalk.

The firemen present a "gorgeous spectacle" in their bright-colored uniforms, with red, white, and blue the predominate colors. Many wore red shits and some had blue trousers as well. The fire companies parading are Warrenton Plummer Engine Company No. 2, Winston Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, Rocky Mount Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company, Concord Hook and Ladder Company, Fulton Hook and Ladder Company of Tarboro, Athletic Hose Reel Company of Salisbury, Enterprise Hose Reel Company of Henderson, Winston Hose Reel Company of Winston, Red Hot Hose Reel company of Wilson, Salamander Hose Reel Company of Washington, Dibble Hose Company of Washington, Statesville Hose Reel Company, Henderson Hook and Ladder Company, and Raleigh's Victor Hose Wagon Company.

Immediately after the parade, the hand engine contest commences at 12:30 p.m. at the intersection of Fayetteville and Davie Streets. Only one company enters and Warrenton Engine Company No. 2 shoots water 100 yards in 37 seconds. They are awarded the $25 prize. At 2:30 p.m., the hook and ladder contest starts on Wilmington Street. The 100 yard course is designated from Christ Church to the "unfinished colored church" at the corner of Morgan Street. A large grandstand is been erected, with a ten-cent admission charged. The Winston company wins the hand- pulled contest and $25 award, with Concord and Tarboro following second and third respectively. The Rocky Mount company is ruled out after an accident. An individual foot race follows, won by Thomas Dulin of Hook and Ladder Company 2. The Championship Reel Race is ran about 5:00 p.m. Four companies from Henderson, Salisbury, and Winston compete in the 300-yard contest. The Winston Red Hots capture the silver cup.

The final day of the convention opens with the hose wagon contest. With only one entry, the Victor Hose Company completes the 300-yard run in 45 and 2/5 seconds. Reports the newspaper "the Raleigh wagon made a splendid run, and the buttsman and coupler jumped in perfect style and made the attachment of the hose with a hitch. The horses were excellently handled by the driver." The prize is $20. Raleigh also wins the hand reel races with a 30 second time laying 150 yards of hose. Charlotte takes second prize and Salisbury is third. The last races are the grab reel contests, won by a Winston company. (August 26, 1902)


The following companies operating during fiscal year ending March 1, 1902:

Companies
  • Rescue
  • Hook and Ladder
  • Capital Hose
  • Victor Hose
Equipment
  • three 2 horse hose wagons, each carrying 1000' of rubber-lined cotton hose
  • one hook and ladder truck
  • eight horses
  • one Gould steamer in reserve
Other 129 public hydrants, 15 private hydrants, 33 alarm boxes
Chief L. H. Lumsden, Fire Chief

Department answers 59 alarms with total losses within City limits $2,823, with insurance covering $2,064 as of March 1, 1902.ar

1903

Infirmary at St. Mary's College destroyed by fire. At 5:30 p.m., flames are discovered under the wood-frame building. The Raleigh Fire Department is immediately notified by telephone and two hose wagons respond. They take 1,800 feet of hose to connect to the hydrants within the city limits. Meanwhile, some 250 boys from A&M College arrive, and offer assistance. They help save most of the furniture and personal effects from the building. The building is destroyed within thirty minutes. The loss is estimated at $1,500. Recounts alumni Peter Valaer, class of 1906, in the Agromeck: "Once we were lined up to be marched into the mess hall for supper [and] we saw dense smoke rising in the vicinity of Saint Mary's and we heard a rumor that Saint Mary's was on fire. We broke ranks and headed there as fast as possible, being quite fleet of foot in those days. I was one of the first to get there. The Saint Mary's Hospital was on fire-- from top to bottom-- and their rooms were filled with sick girls. Then I remembered there was a typhoid epidemic there at that time. On arrival we began hauling out girls from the building, laying them on the campus grass and rushing in the building for more. The excitement was intense and confusion reigned. The matron in charged checked on the blanket-covered girls and announced that "Mary" was still in one of the back upstairs rooms. Ward Shannonhouse, our famous pitcher at that time, dashed into the now furiously burning building. I followed him. Ward shoved me back saying that it was no use in more than one being burned to death, and up the burning steps he dashed, returning a few seconds later with the precious and beautiful Mary, wrapped in a burning blanket. Ward was also on fire and had hardly stumbled out of that burning inferno when the whole building collapsed into a huge burning mass. All the girls that were in the hospital had been saved, although some suffered small burns. I also had a small burn, which I was proud of because the girl's swarmed around me to give me first aid, and it was perhaps the happiest moment of my life. O. Max Gardner, who was on the scene, seeing all the attention that I was getting, said in disgust, just like a darn freshman having all the luck. It was a glorious night (only a building lost)but no one was seriously hurt and the lives of a number of girls [were] saved. The fire department arrived late and couldn't get the water started, to it was a happy thing that N.C. State College* was so near. The last thing I remember was a number of us were group and sang "good Saint Mary's, farewell (good night)to you, one last look into your eyes so blue," etc. When I got to my room I was very hungry because we had missed our supper that night. In my room I wrote the fire story of Saint Mary's in the Red and White (the monthly school paper). There is no doubt we saved the lives of most of the girls we hauled out because most of them in the hospital were quite sick and helpless. In our honor Saint Mary's gave us a party. We wore baby blue ribbons, badges and Saint Mary's colors, and the girls wore red and white dresses. It was a very happy occasion for N. C. State College." [MF] (January 9, 1903)no10jan03

Office of Superintendent of Fire Alarm Telegraph placed under control of Chief of Fire Department. (May 6, 1903)cm

W. A. Howell elected Chief of Department. Later replaced by Asst. Chief Walter Woollcott. (May 6, 1903)cm

Fire Commission recommends to Board of Alderman that three men sleep at each engine house, to be furnished with bedding, to be paid, and to be on duty from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. (June 5, 1903)cm

Fire department attends North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Durham. The Capital Hose Company again breaks a "world's record," winning the Championship Reel Race. Also competing is a junior reel team. To fund the attendance of the junior team, a lawn party is held at the Catholic parsonage on July 27. Miss Emma Roberts is voted "most popular young lady" and receives a rocking chair donated by Royall & Bordern. Gordon Harris is voted "most popular fireman" and receives a box of cigars from Mr. L. B. Peagram. The Southern Air Line Railroad provides lights and receipts total $25 after expenses. (July 23-25, 1902)nojul02

Capital Hose Company wagon overturns on New Bern Avenue. The one-horse racing wagon, recently purchased and being driven for practice, occurs at corner of New Bern Avenue and Person Street at about 7:00 p.m. Three firefighters are hurt. [AI] (July 29, 1903)no30jul03

City barn and stables at corner of Salisbury and Davie Street burns. Alarm received at 7:55 p.m. from Box 312. Companies No. 1, No. 3. and Hook and Ladder respond. Three streams and 1,800 feet of hose used. Four mules are rescued from the stables. The lower part of the building is not damaged, with only the roof needed replacement. Loss $225. [UF] (October 12, 1903)ar, no14oct03


Hill's city directory dated 1903 summarizes fire department as "

  • Chief - Walter Woollcott
  • Assistant - M. W. Crocker
  • Ladder Company No. 1, Morgan near Salisbury - W. W. Parrish, foreman
  • Rescue Company No. 1, Fayetteville near County Courthouse - R. E. Lumsden, foreman
  • Capital Hose Company No. 3, Morgan near Salisbury - J. F. Jordan, foreman
  • Victor Hose Company No. 2 (colored), corner Blount and Hargett - William H. Palmer, foreman.

Sanborn fire insurance map dated July 1903 summarizes fire department as

  • paid and volunteer
  • Chief, Assistant Chief, and 100 men
  • eight horses
  • three fire engine houses
  • all drives paid and on constant duty
  • extra paid man at each house from 9 p.m. until morning
  • Gamewell fire alarm system
  • 32 boxes, storage battery system, four-circuit repeater
  • 37 volunteer members have gongs in their rooms
  • three two-horse hose wagons
  • 1,000' 2 1/2" cotton, rubber-lined house and cut-off nozzles with each wagon
  • one two-horse hook and ladder truck
  • one Gould steam fire engine in reserve
  • 1,000' of standard hose
  • [hydrant] pressure from tank 50 pounds, fire or direct pressure 60 to 100 pounds
  • city population 20,000. 

1904

Four buildings in Louisburg burn. The fire starts at 3:05 a.m. Upon receiving the news in Raleigh, preparations are made to send the Rescue Steam Company by train. Before the train leaves, word is received that the fire has been checked. The fire is controlled at 6:00 a.m. [MA] (January 22, 1904)no23jan04

Building on E. Davie Street burns. Alarm received at 1:28 a.m. from Box 24. All four companies respond. Five streams, and 2,850 feet of hose used. Damage $4,110.50. [MF?] (February 5, 1904)ar

Apparatus delivery: New hose wagon is ordered for the Rescue Company racing team. (June 1904)no14jun04

Mutual Pub. Company on W. Martin street burns. Alarm received at 5:50 p.m. from Box 312. Companies No. 2, No. 3., and Hook and Ladder respond. Five lines laid. Two streams and 1,300 feet used. Caused by " gasoline." [MF?] (June 20, 1904)ar

Building at 521 N. East Street burns. Alarm received at 9:50 p.m. from Box 12. All four companies respond. Three streams and 2,400 feet of hose used. Caused by lightning. [MF?] (June 27, 1904)ar, Morning Post, 27jun04

Fire department attends North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Salisbury. The Capital Hose Company wins the hose wagon race, competing against Durham, Fayetteville, and Goldsboro. (August 2-5, 1904)noaug04

Two homes on Smithfield Avenue burn. [MF?] (August 3, 1904)no04aug04

Victor Company attends North Carolina Colored Firemen's Association tournament in Wilson. Five-hundred firefighters attend the event, which opens with a parade featuring the Red Hots Fire Company of Wilson, Victor Company of Raleigh, Athletes Hose Reel No. 4 of Salisbury, a Winston hose reel, Fultons Fire Company from Tarboro, Warrenton Hand Engines No. 1 and No 2., Salamanders Fire Company No. 1 from Washington, Excelsior Fire Company from Rocky Mount, Enterprise Fire Company reel team from Henderson, and carriages containing officers. A championship reel race is held with Salisbury, Wilson, and Winston entering. The Wilson team wins. (August 10, 1904)

Hardin's Stables at corner of Martin and Blount Streets burns . Alarm received at 4:50 a.m. from Box 23. All four companies respond. Sixteen animals, thirteen horses and three mules, perish in the fire that buts both the livery stable and the storehouse just west of the building. Delivery wagons, buggies, carriages and traps, feed stuff in the stable, and a general line of merchandise belong to Mr. W. A. Myatt in the building next door is destroyed. Six streams and 2,700 feet of hose used. Total losses are about $10,000. Cause unknown. [MF] (August 23, 1904)no25aug04


Four fire companies operating during fiscal year ending February 29, 1904:

Company Rescue Steam Fire Engine No. 1 W. R. Womble Hook and Ladder Capital Hose No. 3 Victor Fire No. 2
Foreman R. E. Lumsden John W. Morgan James F. Jordan W. H. Palmer
Assistant W. C. White John Wynne Charles H. Betts S. G. Smith
Members 25 21 24 21
Quarters Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie 112. W. Morgan Street 112. W. Morgan Street 135 E. Hargett Street
Equipment
  • three 2 horse hose wagons
  • one hook and ladder truck
  • one Gould steamer. (soon to be repaired)
Chief Walter Woollcott, Fire Chief
Assistant Marcus W. Crocker, Assistant Chief
Other 128 public hydrants, 15 private hydrants, 32 alarm boxes

Department answers 59 alarms with total losses of $8,425.15, with insurance companies covering $7,295.58 as of February 29, 1904.

Improvements during fiscal year ending February 29, 1904:

  • new floor laid and roof painted at Victor Company station
  • large feed room built and other repairs at Capital and Hook and Ladder station
  • new floor, new roof, and two rooms added to Rescue Company station
  • new floor, new roof, and two rooms added to the Rescue Company station
  • repairs to feed house roof and closets and basins added to Rescue Company station. ar

Fire alarm system ending February 29, 1904: "The equipment of the Fire Alarm System consists of one bell striker, three gongs in engine houses, one four-circuit repeater, one four-circuit switchboard complete with switches, galvanometers, storage batteries, etc, thirty- two fire alarm boxes, sixteen call bells in the houses of members, wire, poles, etc., making the system as complete as any in the United States."ar

1905

Grocery Store on E. Hargett street burns. Alarm received at 1:30 a.m. from Box 29. Three hose streams and 800 feet of hose used by Companies No. 2, No. 3, and Hook and Ladder Company. Caused by defective flue. Owner Mrs. Stanback. Occupant B. W. Jones. [MF?] (February 16, 1905)no16feb05

House at corner of Blount and Pace destroyed by fire. Fire is reported just after 12:00 a.m. Though located outside of the city limits, 1,800 feet of hose is stretched and three streams are played on the fire. [UF] (Sunday before March 1, 1905)no01mar05

Downtown Louisburg burns. The fire is reported about 2:00 a.m. Chief Woollcott receives a request for aid via telephone and prepares to send the Capital Hose Company via train. The aid is subsequently not needed, and the fire is controlled using dynamite. [MA] (March 29, 1905)no30mar05

Standard Oil Company warehouse at 329 Harrington Street burns. The fire is reported at 2:30 a.m. from Boxes 41-47. One-armed night watchman found murdered in stables. Five mules burned to death, with watchman's charred remains found under one. Safe broken into, but contained less than $25. Loss estimated $30,000. [MF] (May 20, 1905)no21may05

John W. Mangum elected Chief of Department . (June 25, 1905)no26jun05

Fire department attends North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Winston. Hook and Ladder wins hook and ladder contest, competing against Asheville The first-place prize of $125. The second-place prize is $75. Teams from the Rescue Hose and Capital Hose Companies also compete in the tournament. (July 19-22, 1905)nojul05

Apparatus delivery: 1905 American LaFrance Metropolitan steamer. The $4,600 apparatus is demonstrated four days later during its acceptance tests at the corner of Fayetteville and Davie Streets, shooting a solid stream 170 feet skyward, and a horizontal stream 370 feet away. The engine produced a "head of steam" from cold water in six minutes and 30 seconds, with the gauge showing 45 pounds of pressure. Photos and more information. (July 7, 1905)cm, no12jul05

Walter Woollcott's store at 14 Martin Street burns . Fire reported at 12:30 a.m. from Box 23. Fire originates on the third floor, which is a total loss. Water damages the first and second floors. Flames burst out the rear end of the store, adjacent to the Yarborough Hotel and causing panic among the guests. Though flames threaten to spread to the hotel and the Merchants and Farmers Bank building, the fire is contained to the Woollcott store. Loss $35,750. The fire caused by a stove. Owner Job P. Wyatt. [MF] (October 29, 1905)mp29oct05

Dormitory at Catholic orphanage burns. Fire reported about 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the four-story "Priest's building." Five young men, students at the orphanage preparing for the priesthood, escape by jumping from the windows. Three are injured after leaping from the roof, one of whom later dies that evening. Four priests also escape from third-story windows. They survive unscathed. The building is almost a total loss, with only the walls left standing. A "squad of cadets" from nearby A&M college assist with the firefighting. Members of the Rescue and Hook and Ladder companies also respond, but can only prevent the spread of the fire to nearby buildings. Several decades later, the fire inspires the legend of "Cry Baby Lane," a nearby road upon which visitors purportedly hear the screaming of children and smell smoke. Loss $20,000. The orphanage is located in the Nazareth Community, two and a half miles from Raleigh. [MF] (October 29, 1905)mp29oct05

Mills Manufacturing Company at 805 Fayetteville Street destroyed by fire. Alarm received at 6:25 p.m. from box 321. Main buildings burns. Caused by "incendiary." Loss $25,000. [MF] (December 2, 1905)no03dec05


Four fire companies operating during fiscal year ending February 28, 1905: 

Company Rescue Steam Fire Engine No. 1 Hook and Ladder Capital Hose No. 3 Victor Fire No. 2
Foreman R. E. Lumsden John W. Morgan James F. Jordan William H. Palmer
Assistant W. A. Simpson E. B. Parish C. H. Betts  
Members 25 19 12 21
Quarters Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie 112. W. Morgan Street 112. W. Morgan Street 135 E. Hargett Street
Equipment
  • three 2 horse hose wagons
  • one hook and ladder truck
  • one steamer, which is "out of repair"
Chief Walter Woollcott, Fire Chief
Assistant Fred W. Mahler
Other 136 public hydrants, 30 private hydrants, 35 alarm boxes

Department answers 68 alarms with total losses of $7,944.38 (buildings), $16,481.60 (contents), with insurance companies covering $4,267.38 (buildings), $12,556.70 (contents)as of February 28, 1905.

1906

Capital Club on Martin Street burns. Fire is reported about 8:15 a.m. Loss over $10,000. [MF?] (January 16, 1906)no17jan06

Seaboard Air Line railroad cotton warehouse burns. Fire is reported about 8:15 p.m. and attracts nearly two thousand people to the building located beyond the north yards of the Seaboard and the Raleigh Cotton Mills. The various wagons of the Raleigh fire companies go as far as possible, but cannot reach the scene due to the distance from the city. A number of firefighters continue on and fight the fire "vigorously." The springs of the front axle of the Rescue hose wagon are broken in the process of responding. The building is half-destroyed. Loss $4,000. [MF?] (March 12, 1906)no13mar906

Rescue Steamer Company No. 2 organized and recognized as part of the fire department. Charter members are William Brewer, Edward Ennis, R. T. Gowan, E. T. Hall Jr., T. B. Heartt, and S. L. Johnson. Renamed L. A. Mahler Steamer Company the next month. (by May 22, 1906)ccm

Fire department attends nineteenth annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Asheville. The Rescue Hose Company wins the horse hose wagon contest and breaks a "world's record," competing against Asheville, Durham, Goldsboro, Kinston, Raleigh's Capital Hose Company, and Statesville. After the contest, Durham's Fire Chief announces that they would withdraw from the association on account of an alleged unfair decision by the judges. As reported in the July 13 edition of the News & Observer, the "Durham boys" charge that Rescue Hose Company member Gordon Harris "yanked back the hose" from Durham's coupler, thus adding several seconds to the tobacco town's time. The judges promptly vote to expel Harris, but cannot change the Durham fire company's time. Thus, unable to accept the time awarded by the judges, Chief Maddry expresses that the company will withdraw from the organization. On Friday afternoon, July 13, Raleigh's firefighters return home. Awaiting them at Union Depot are the Mayor, the Board of Aldermen, city officers, and several hundred citizens including "scores of beautiful women" as a newspaper notes. The entire fire department and all its apparatus are also at the depot and the "jolly boys" are given a ride to Metropolitan Hall, where a banquet is awaiting. Acting Fire Chief Bob Haines presides over the affair, while the Mayor and Aldermen and Fire Committee Chairman Edward Hugh Lee make speeches. Others speak and give speeches and the winning drivers of both the Rescue and Hook and Ladder companies are "rushed to the stage" for applause and ovations. The matter of Gordon Harris is also discussed, noting that the Rescue Company member was not expelled as originally reported. Harris explains that his reported interference was incorrect and the judges agreed and allowed his continued participation in events that day. (July 10-13, 1906)rtjul09

Lee and Broughton's Store burns. Fire is reported at 9:25 pm. from Box 29. Firefighters break open the back door to the store and soon extinguish the flames. Loss estimated $9,000. [MF?] (July 30, 1906)no31jan06

Insane Asylum laundry building burns. Fire is reported in the morning by telephone. Flames are extinguished by hospital fire brigade and Rescue Company. [UF] (August 1, 1906)no01aug06

Capudine Chemical Company on S. Salisbury Street burns. Fire is reported a 7:15 p.m. from Box 312. Flames are quickly controlled. Loss estimated $5,000. [MF?] (August 18, 1906)no19aug06


Four fire companies operating during fiscal year ending February 28, 1906:

Company Rescue Steam Fire Engine No. 1 Hook and Ladder No. 1 Capital Hose No. 3 Victor Hose No. 2
Foreman Sherwood Brockwell E. B. Peebles J. F. Jordan W. H. Palmer
Assistant Gordan Harris John S. Wynne C. H. Betts June Kelley
Station Fayetteville Street between Martin and Davie 112. W. Morgan Street 112. W. Morgan Street 135 E. Hargett Street
Equip 2 horse hose wagon
2 horses
1 hook and ladder truck
2 horses
2 horse hose wagon
2 horses
2 horse hose wagon
2 horses
  • one new [American LaFrance] "Metropolitan" steam fire engine no. 2. (stored on W. Morgan St.)
  • one" old Gould"
  • one "old 400 gallon chemical wagon"
  • one "old 200 galloon chemical wagon"
  • one " old Victor hand. (engine)"
Chief Jno. W. Mangum, Fire Chief
Assistant L. H. Lumsden, Assistant Chief
Other 137 public hydrants, 31 private hydrants, 36 alarm boxes

Department answers 106 alarms with total losses of $47,579.75, of which insurance companies pay $47,244.75 as of February 28, 1906.

1907

Seaboard Air Line passenger train derails and burns two miles north of Raleigh. The northbound Florida Limited, No. 84, is traveling at 25 mph when it strikes an obstruction at the Pigeon House Branch crossing at 3:25 a.m. All seven cars subsequently catch fire after the gasoline lights in the front of the train break and set fire to the rest of the train. None of the 18 to 20 passengers are hurt, but the conductor suffers a "bad gash" over his left cheek is feared suffering from internal injuries. Two porters are slightly injured, also. The Capital Hose Company "hastens" to the scene, but cannot do anything as the "fire has made such headway." Loss $85,000. [RA] (January 17, 1907)

Three firefighters thrown from hose wagon on North East Street. The accident occurs while the Capital Hose Company apparatus is responding to a false alarm from Box 19. Rich Pool, driving, is injured, along with Toad Pool and John Snuggs. Also riding and uninjured are Peter Welch and James F. Jordan. [AI] (January 19, 1907)no20jan07

Ten houses at Pilot Cotton Mills burn. The early morning fire burns 10 of 16 row houses. The mill fire company responds, but the Raleigh Fire Department is delayed due to Chief requiring approval of the Mayor before sending apparatus outside the city. By the time the Raleigh hose wagon reaches the scene, the fire is under control. Loss $1,000. [MF] (January 21, 1907)no22jan07

Carolina Hotel in Durham burns. The May 2, 1907 edition of the News & Observer writes "News reached Raleigh just before midnight last night that the big Carolina Hotel in Durham was in flames and that the entire block on which it was located was threatened. Application was made by the chief of the Durham fire department to Mayor James L. Johnson of the city for the assistance of the Raleigh fire department and the mayor at once issued permission for the department to go to the help of the distressed city. Chief Lumsden at once set about making arrangements with the Southern railway for a special train to take the companies to Durham." [MA] (May 3, 1907)no02may07

Standard Gas and Electric Company burns. Fire is reported just after 1:00 p.m. Damage $2,000. [MF?] (June 1, 1907)no01jun07

Frank B. Simpson elected Chief of Department . (Friday before June 30, 1907)no30jun07

Fire companies participate in Fourth of July parade. (July 4, 1907)no05jul07

Fire department attends twentieth annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Wilmington. The L. A. Mahler Steam Fire Engine Company wins the long-distance contest, competing against Elizabeth City but not Goldsboro and New Bern, who suffer engine problems after the quick-steaming contest. (August 6, 1907)noaug07

Victor Company attends North Carolina Colored Firemen's Association tournament in Durham. Bart Barbee, Foreman of Durham's Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company, opens his home to the association's officers. Over 600 people attend from other cities and they are housed in private homes. Unlike the ease of lodging for the white firefighter's tournaments, there are no black hotels in this era. Some 20 companies parade on the opening day of the event, as well as a large number of carriages and floats. Raleigh's Victor Company competes in three events and wins first place in each: the 150-yard reel race, the 50-yard grab reel race, and a 100-yard foot race. The latter is won by John Haywood with a 10 1/4 second time. Upon their return to the Capital City, the victorious team is greeted by a cheering crowd at Union Depot. (August 14, 1907)no


Hill's city directory dated 1907-08 summarizes fire department as "

  • Chief - Frank B. Simpson
  • Assistant - L. H. Lumsden
  • Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, Morgan near Salisbury - E. D. Peebles, foreman
  • Rescue Company No. 1, Fayetteville near County Court-House - Sherwood Brockwell, foreman
  • Capital Hose Company No. 3, Morgan near Salisbury - J. F. Jordan, foreman
  • Victor Hose Company No. 2. (colored), corner Blount and Hargett - William H. Palmer, foreman.

City limits extended for second time, for one mile from Capital Square.no26apr42

1908

Cary's largest building burns. Fire report at 3:30 a.m. A grist mill and office building owned by F. R. Gray and Brother contains the Gray Brothers grist mill, two flour mills and one corn mill, a cotton gin, private offices, the post office, two store rooms, a coffin establishment, three lodge halls, and the Episcopal chapel. The Raleigh Fire Department is summoned and Chief Frank Simpson responds by carrying the steamer and hose on a special train. Upon their arrival, the spread of the fire to other buildings is controlled and the steamer is not removed from the rail car. Loss $11,475. [MA] (February 25, 1908)no26feb08

Two homes on W. Jones Street destroyed by fire. Fire is reported about 12:00 p.m. Low water pressure is a problem, and the steamer soon responds. Loss about $6,000. [MF?] (April 12, 1908)no14apr08

W. H. King Drug Company at Martin and Wilmington Street burns. Fire is reported about 4:15 p.m. Four streams are directed at the fire, including one from the steamer. Crews rescue a woman from the third floor using ladders. Loss over $30,000. [MF] (April 30, 1908)no01may08

Fire department attends twenty-first annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Wilmington. The Capital Hose, Hook and Ladder, and Rescue Hose companies attend, though the Hook and Ladder Company declines to compete in contests. The Rescue Hose Company takes "first money" in the horse hose wagon races, competing against Asheville, Durham, Goldsboro, and New Bern. (June 17, 1908)

Victor Company attends North Carolina Colored Firemen's Association tournament in Rocky Mount. (August 11, 1908)

John W. Magnum appointed Chief of Department after resignation of Chief Simpson on October 26, 1908. (November 7, 1908)no08nov08

1909

St. Agnes Hospital at St. Augustine School burns. Fire is reported at 8:30 a.m. from Box 19. The Rescue and Victor companies respond to the school, which is outside of the city. Frozen fire hydrants challenge crews, who are forced to thaw the plugs. Four streams are finally started, and the fire controlled. Loss about $1,000. [UF] (February 2, 1909)no03feb09

Lonnie H. Lumsden elected Chief of Department. (July 2, 1909)no20jun09, cm

St. Paul's A.M.E. Church on N. Harrington Street burns. Fire is reported about 11:00 p.m. Caused by a "fire balloon set adrift by some thoughtless person," which lights "on the shingle roof" and starts the blaze that destroys the building. Firefighting efforts endure "a tragedy of errors," including multiple box alarms that sends the Capital Hose Company "dashing" to a different box, delayed application of "direct pressure," and the absence of two teams of firefighters "now attending the Firemen's Tournament in Asheville" The building is described as "the handsomest colored church in the State and one of the handsomest in the South." Damage over $50,000. [MF] (July 5, 1909)rt07jul09, no07jul09

Fire department attends twenty-second annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Asheville. Between 1,000 and 1,500 firemen and convention visitors attended. The Capital Hose Company won first place in the horse hose race, both setting a new "world's record" and lowering the record previously won by Raleigh's Rescue Hose Company in an earlier year. (July 6, 1900)rt07jul09

Victor Company attends North Carolina Colored Firemen's Association tournament in New Bern. Firefighters from 26 cities attend, with an estimated 3,000 visitors to the eastern North Carolina city. Twenty-five fire companies participated in the opening day parade, with the Victor Company eliciting applause from "hundreds of sightseers." In the second day of competition, the Victor Company wins second prize in the reel race (August 17, 1909)


Hill's city directory dated 1909-10 summarizes fire department as "

  • Chief - L. H. Lumsden
  • Assistant - Will Taylor
  • Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, Morgan Near Salisbury - John Wynne, foreman
  • Rescue Company No. 1, Fayetteville near County Court-House - Gordon Harris, foreman
  • Capital Hose Company No. 3, Morgan near Salisbury - J. F. Jordan, foreman
  • Victor Hose Company No. 2. (colored), corner Blount and Hargett - Stephen J. Hawkins, foreman

Sanborn fire insurance map dated August 1909 summarizes fire department and water supply as

  • paid and volunteer department
  • all drivers paid
  • extra paid men on duty at each fire station at night
  • Chief, Assistant Chief, and 75 men
  • eight horses
  • Gamewell fire alarm system
  • 36 boxes
  • third class Metropolitan steam fire engine
  • three hose wagons
  • hook and ladder truck
  • hose wagons carry 1,000 feet of standard cotton, rubber-lined hose each
  • 1,000 feet of hose kept in reserve.
  • 17 miles of water pipes, 4" to 12"
  • 190 double hydrants
  • domestic pressure 50 pounds, fire pressure 60 to 100 pounds
  • average daily consumption of 2,500,000 gallons
  • city population 25,000



Abbreviations

[AA]   Aircraft accident
[AI]   Apparatus incident
[EF]   Early fire
[HM]   Haz-mat incident
[MA]   Mutual Aid
[MF]   Major fire
[RA   Railway accident
[TF]   Tanker fire
[TR]   Technical rescue
[UD]   USAR deployment
[UF]   Unusual fire
[UI]   Unusual incident
[WE]   Weather event

Sources

ar   City of Raleigh Annual Report
bd   City of Raleigh budget documents
cvh   Cameron Village: A History 1949-1999, Nan Hutchins, Sprit Press, 2001
cad City of Raleigh Auditor's Office
ccm / cm   City Council Minutes / City Minutes
ccor   1792-1892, The Centennial Celebration of Raleigh, NC, Kemp D. Battle, Edwards and Broughton, 1893
cer   Chief Engineer's Report
dah   North Carolina Department of Archives and History
dahni   North Carolina Department of Archives and History News and Observer index
fp   City of Raleigh Fire Protection Study
hr   Historical Raleigh with Sketches of Wake County and its Important Towns, Moss N. Amis, 1912
oh   Oral History
mp   Morning Post
nc   North Carolinian
no   News and Observer
noi   News and Observer Index
pb   Peter Brock
pph   Pullen Park History
rla   Raleigh Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary scrapbooks
rpu   Raleigh Fire Department Photo Unit records
rr   Raleigh Register
rt   Raleigh Times
ruh   Raleigh: An Unorthodox History
yb84   Raleigh Fire Department 1984, Raleigh Fire Department, Taylor Publishing, 1984
yb02+   Raleigh Fire and Rescue: 1984-2002, Raleigh Fire Department, Taylor Publishing, 2002, plus additional historical information also compiled by the Raleigh Fire Department around 2002.
wch   Wake: Capital County of North Carolina - Volume 1, Prehistory Through Centennial, Elizabeth Reid Murray, Capital County Publishing, 1983


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