Raleigh Fire Department History

1910-1919



1910

Five fire companies protecting 4.0 square miles and 19,218 residents.


Hose wagon accident at corner of Fayetteville and South Streets. Driver J. S. Hinnant is thrown from the Rescue hose wagon after it slips and slides in the curve of a street car track. Hinnant is transported to nearby Rex Hospital. The hose wagon is removed from service for repairs. [AI] (Sunday before February 8, 1910)no08feb10

Two houses on S. Swain Street burn. Fire is reported about 3:30 p.m. verbally. Two cottages are nearly destroyed, and a third is damaged. [MF] (June 21, 1910)no22jun10

Fire department attends twenty-third annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in New Bern. The Rescue Hose and Capital Hose companies compete in contests. (July 28, 1910)nojul10

Two houses at 315 and 317 S. Person Street burn. Fire is reported about 9:30 a.m. from Box 214 and Box 24. The Victor Company is first on scene. Some hose companies arrive 15 to 20 minutes later, having ridden past the Governor's Mansion in search of the fire. One structure is destroyed, the other heavily damaged. Loss over $4,500. [MF] (August 8, 1910)no09aug10


Raleigh has 55 miles of water mains.

Five fire companies operating during fiscal year ending February 28, 1910:

Company Rescue Fire Engine No. 1 Hook and Ladder Capital Hose No. 3 Victor Fire No. 2 L. A. Mahler Steamer
Foreman Frank M. King John S. Wynne J. F. Jordan S. J. Hawkins E. T. Hall
Assistant T. W. Blake Ed Parrish C. D. Farmer S. G. Smith  
Equipment
  • three 2 horse hose wagons
  • one hook and ladder truck
  • one [American LaFrance Metropolitan] steamer
  • nine horses, one of these used for the Chief
Chief L. H. Lumsden, Fire Chief
Assistant Will Taylor, Assistant Chief
Other 136 public hydrants, 30 private hydrants, 34 alarm boxes

Department answers 98 alarms with total losses of $32,120, of which insurance companies pay $27,100 as of February 28, 1910.

1911

Fire department attends twenty-third annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Charlotte. (May 16, 1911)no17may11

National Board of Fire Underwriters presents report on Raleigh's fire protection capabilities.

The report numbers 21 pages and is addressed to Major James I. Johnson. About the fire department it says "the city has now attained a size such that adequate protection cannot be expected from a volunteer fire department; the in-creased congestion of construction and of values demands a promptness of response and concentration of effort during the first few minutes of a fire which can best be obtained through a full paid department. The appointment of chief officers for short terms, instead of indefinitely, introduces opportunities for political interference and incompetent management." The report also states "fire[fighting] methods are very unsatisfactory; direct hydrant streams are used exclusively, and with the present very poor [water] distribution system, adequate quantities of water are not available at even fair pressure to fight a moderate fire. The department is practically without discipline, there being little or no control over the individual members, which, together with the lack of drills, has resulted in very low general efficiency." Under the heading of Conflagrations, the report adds "the water supply is inadequate and unreliable, the fire department is extremely weak and inefficient and would be hampered by overhead wire obstructions, and there is very little private fire protection, so that the probability of serious fires is high." The board's recommendations for changes include water system improvements, additional hydrants, and that "the present fire organization be disbanded and that a full paid department be organized." Read more about the report. (May 22, 1911)no23may11

St. Agnes Hospital and other St. Augustine School buildings burn. Fire is reported at 7:00 p.m. at the hospital and the nearby pump station. Fires both large and small start when high-voltage power lines energize the school grounds. All or nearly all buildings have fires. The pump station and hospital suffer the most damage. The electricity is shut down after about two hours. [UF] (May 26, 1911)no27may11

Apex business district burns. See: Apex Fire Department history. [MA] (June 12, 1911)

Hose wagon accident on East Davie Street. Driver J. S. Hinnant is thrown from the Rescue hose wagon after passes over a bridge that hasn't been raised since the street was filled in. Hinnant is transported to Rex Hospital with minor injuries. [AI] (July 1, 1911)no02jul11

Chief Lumsden resigns. Walter Woollcott appointed Chief of Department. (December 1, 1911)no02dec11

Chief Woollcott is injured when thrown from his horse-drawn buggy at the corner of Hillsboro Street while responding to an alarm from Box 24 at East and Davie streets shortly after midnight. Hubert Fowler is also thrown from the buggy and is injured when the buggy runs over him. As neither Chief Woollcott nor the City Electrician reached the fire, there was no key to open an alarm box, to send the "three taps" signaling that the fire had been extinguished. [AI] (December 30, 1911)no31dec11


Five fire companies operating during fiscal year ending February 28, 1911:

Company Rescue Fire Engine No. 1 Hook and Ladder Capital Hose No. 2 Victor Fire No. 2 L. A. Mahler Steamer*
Foreman Frank M. King, Sherwood Brockwell* John S. Wynne J. F. Jordan S. J. Hawkins E. T. Hall
Assistant T. W. Blake Ed Parrish C. D. Farmer S. G. Smith  
Equipment
  • three 2 horse hose wagons
  • one hook and ladder truck
  • one [American LaFrance Metropolitan] steamer
  • nine horses
  • Chief's automobile
Chief L. H. Lumsden, Fire Chief
Assistant Will Taylor, Assistant Chief
Other 170 public hydrants, 30 private hydrants, 34 alarm boxes

Department answers 95 alarms with total loss of $12,565, of which insurance companies pay $10,460 as of February 28, 1911

* Missing from Hill's city directory dated 1911-12

Suggestions to Mayor and Board of Aldermen from Fire Chief for fiscal year ending February 28, 1911:

"The city proper is now two and one-half times larger than it was in 1907, and our present equipment is wholly inadequate to meet the demands that are apt to be made upon us at any time, and in consequence of such conditions I would suggest that the city purchase at once three combination chemical wagons, 2,000 feet of hose, one-third size gasoline pumping engine, and one 65-food aironal truck, all of the foregoing automobile driven, as it would be quicker and less expensive than the horse driven apparatus we now have." ar 

1912

Four buildings at the Catholic Orphanage burn. Fire is reported in early morning. An old dormitory and school room, the laundry building, the barn, and the stables are destroyed. Fire supposedly starts in engine room of laundry. No one is injured nor endangered by the fire. With no waterworks on the grounds, the fires are not suppressed and also set fire to "much grass in the nearby fields." Damage about $20,000. Unknown if fire department responds. [MF] (January 22, 1912)no23jan12

Three houses on Battle Street destroyed by fire. Fire is reported around 4:30 a.m. Nearby houses also catch fire, and a fourth is damaged. The nearest hydrant is over 1,000 feet away. [MF] (January 22, 1912)no23jan12

Chief Woollcott resigns. Sherwood Brockwell appointed Chief of Department, serves 1912-1914. Brockwell, a 26 year-old mechanical engineering graduate of State College, is the Rescue Company Foreman. He is the city's first full-time fire chief. (June 7, 1912)no08jun12

Board of Aldermen adopts resolution calling for the investigation of the amount of money required to place fire department on paid basis:

WHEREAS: The equipment of the Fire Department of the City of Raleigh is regarded as inadequate, there no having been any improvement in the equipment since the city had a population of eight thousand, and

WHEREAS: It is deemed absolutely necessary to increase the efficiency of the Department to protect life and property;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Fire Department of the City of Raleigh is put upon a full paid basis, and;

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Fire Committee is hereby directed and authorized to make a thorough investigation in regard to the amount of money that will be necessary to equip the Department and put it upon a full paid basis, and report to this Board at its next regular meeting. (June 8, 1912)cm

Rescue and Victor company hose wagons collide at the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett streets. James Manley is injured after being thrown from the Victor wagon. [AI] (June 10, 1912)no11jun12

Fire Committee presents report to Board of Aldermen on organizing a fully-paid fire department consisting of three motorized fire companies. recommendations of fire committee. The report is adopted, though no final decision is taken. (July 19, 1912)no20jul12

Fire Chief makes first report to Board of Aldermen. Read the entire report. (July 12, 1912)no13jul12

Board of Aldermen empower Fire Committee to "act at once toward carrying out the provisions" of their report. (July 19, 1912)no20jul12

Fire department attends twenty-fourth annual North Carolina State Firemen's Association tournament in Fayetteville. (July 23, 1912)no24jul12

Demonstration conducted of motorized American LaFrance chemical fire. The apparatus travels along several major streets before arriving at the Centennial School on Fayetteville Street to extinguish a pile of boxes and crates. (July 30, 1912)rt30jul12

Board of Audit and Finance eliminates one of the motor fire engines desired for purchase by the fire committee. Also eliminated is a motor car for the Fire Chief, with the suggestion that the chief use a motorcycle "in his chases to the fires of the future" (August 2, 1912)no03aug12

The fire committee of the Board of Aldermen approves purchase of a pair of American LaFrance combination chemical hose wagons for $9,800. Members of the committee are Alexander Webb, C.A. Johnson, and J. Sherwood Upchurch. Six machines are in the bidding: White, $5,000; Seagraves, $4,950; Knox, $4,850; Webb, $5,000; LaFrance $4,900; Boyd, $4,885-$5,100. Chief Brockwell favors the American LaFrance, which has a "speed possibility of more than sixty miles" and "has an arrangement whereby the [steam] fire engine may be attached to it and pulled with little or no difficulty." The Chief also notes "the efficiency of the fire company's work is doubled by the auto truck alone. It can make the distance in less than half the time required by horses and with the sixty-horse power engine will pull the fire machinery over the streets upon any hill in Raleigh." (September 3, 1912)no04sep12

Hose wagon accident on South Dawson Street. Driver J. S. Hinnant is thrown from the Capital hose wagon and strikes a telephone pole, which he grasps and slides down from, after one of the horses slips on the asphalt pavement. [AI] (Day before? November 1, 1912)no01nov12

Merchants' National Bank Building catches fire. Fire originates in "the woodwork over the furnace." The 11:30 a.m. fire resists "for only a few minutes the efforts of firemen to get it under control" and the building escapes with "little or no damage, except to the basement, which was flooded with water." Cause is not known, though a theory has a defect in the flue responsible. "The bank officers and clerks were warned of the trouble by the rise of smoke from the basement. A telephone alarm was sent in and Chief Brockwell and his men responded at once, five lines of hose being used in front of the building and two lines in the rear. All the water was thrown into the basement. Great clouds of yellow smoke, coal smoke it was, sifted through the manholes on the sidewalk and nearly stifled the firemen, policemen, bankers, and others who worked on the job. The building is a 4-story brick structure, with basement, and is occupied by the Merchants' National Bank and several lawyers and other business men." [UF] (November 20, 1912)rt20nov12

Chief Brockwell travels to New York, for training with New York City Fire Department. In a September meeting, the Board of Aldermen vote to grant Brockwell three months leave and pay his expenses. Once every year, the New York City Fire Department conducts a "school of instruction" for thousands of firefighters for a period of three months, instructing them in the art of "modern firefighting." As outsiders are seldom allowed to attend the training, Chief Brockwell is the first southern man to attend. He'll study during the day and be a regular member of the fire department at night, assigned to one of the hose wagons. The Board reasons that the gained expertise will eliminate the need for outside experts for the reorganizing of the fire department (September-October, 1912)

Hose wagon collides with street car.

Three firemen are riding a Capital Hose Company wagon when they strike a streetcar near the intersection of Martin and Blount streets. They are exercising the horses that morning, going north along Blount Street from Davie Street, when the accident occurs about 9:30 a.m. Driver T. B. Castleberry sees the coming collision and tries pulling the horses to the left. His wagon strikes the trolley sideways and he is thrown to the pavement. Hubert Horton is thrown into the trolley car through a broken window, while the third fireman, Peter Welch, is not injured. The operator of the trolley is thrown back into the cabin and suffers a dislocated arm. The two passengers in the car are not injured. The force of the collision pushes the car off the tracks and also breaks the tongue of the fire wagon. George, one of the horses pulling the wagon, suffers a broken foot. Considered one of the department's best horses and having served for twelve years, he is "rendered useless" by the injury. He is examined by a veterinarian named Dr. Rudolph, who is then ordered by Chief Brockwell to put the animal down. The doctor injects "six grains of strychnine" into the 17 year-old animal's jugular vein. George drops to the ground and dies within minutes. Castleberry, a Relief Driver hired only two weeks ago, is hospitalized with cuts and bruises. [AI] (December 21, 1912)no22dec12

Fully-paid fire department placed in service. Career personnel take over the apparatus, equipment, and facilities of the volunteers. Only the fire alarm system is left in control of another city department. The apparatus consists of three horse-drawn hose wagons carrying 1,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose each, a horse-drawn combination service ladder truck with a ten-gallon chemical tank, and a third-size, horse-drawn steam engine in reserve. Two stations are initially staffed, with Station 3 to be opened later.

Station locations:

  • Station 1 on 110-112 W. Morgan Street, in the quarters of Capital Hose and Hook and Ladder companies.
  • Station 2 on Salisbury St. side of County Courthouse lot, in the quarters of Rescue Company
  • Station 3 at 135 W. Hargett Street, in the quarters of Victor Fire Company.
    Photos and more information. (December 23, 1912)rt15jul16

Fifteen firemen have been hired. No others will be added until after the apparatus arrived in January. (December 28, 1912)rt23dec12

1913

Giersch Hotel at the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett streets burns. The new firemen battle their first real fire. About 6:00 a.m., after smoke is seen seeping from the floor of the dining room of Giersch's Hotel at the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett streets, a fire is discovered in the basement furnace room. Raleigh's new firemen are soon fighting the most "stubborn blaze in many years." The flames are "confined almost entirely to the ceiling of the basement." As the lower level is divided into several rooms and passageways, firemen find it impossible to move through the basement. Some twenty-five guests are asleep in the hotel and are roused from their rooms by the hotel clerk and the porters. Some rush from the building "clad only in night clothes," while take time to dress. The Lieutenant-Governor is staying at the hotel and appears on the street wearing only his trousers. The "lack of winds and the heavy atmosphere" keep the dense smoke close to the building and this hinders the firefighters. More than one fireman is pulled from the basement "nearly overcome with smoke." After the fire breaks "through the flooring of the main cafe," crews are able to get the blaze under control. Five lines are laid and they pour into the building for at least four hours. Direct pressure is requested from and provided by the water company from "shortly after the alarm until the fire was under control." The pressure is estimated at 1,250 gallons per minute. It is 11:00 a.m. before the fire is finally extinguished. Fire damage is confined to the basement and the cafe on the first floor. Smoke damages all three stories of the structure. Water is also left standing "to the depth of five or six inches" in the basement of the adjoining Heller Brothers shoe store and Alderman's Toy and China Company. Damage is estimated at $2,000, with the loss fully covered by insurance. No injuries are reported and all of the guests escape safely. Chief Brockwell and his men, however, later nurse "swollen and inflamed eyes" from the smoke. A rumor soon circulates regarding the cause of the fire. The day before the fire, the owner discharges an "insulting waiter." The dismissed employee hit the owner on the head and then "fled to avoid arrest." The employee is rumored to have started the fire, but the actual cause is suspected as a hot pipe that ran from a water heater in the furnace room to the flue at the side of the building. [UF] (January 12, 1913)rt13jan13

"Visit to the Firemen, The New Quarters of the New Department," reports the January 16 edition of the Raleigh Times. "Last evening a reporter for the Times went with Chief Brockwell and Assistant Chief Farmer, of the new paid department, to headquarters. The moment the reporter entered the door Chief Brockwell sounded the alarm. Upstairs, in the men's recreation room, the music of a piano was heard. There was a quick change. At the clang of the big gong out dashed the horses and the men came with a run, sliding down the big brass rod to the first floor, harnessed the horses and got on the seats-- all in 27 seconds. Read entire article. (January 16, 1913)

First motorized fire trucks delivered. Pair of 1912 American LaFrance Type 5 Combination Chemical and Hose Trucks, 48 HP, 4 cylinder, 40 gallon chemical tank, serial numbers 226, 227, assigned to "headquarters" (Station 1)and the "Rescue engine house" (Station 2). Each truck carries 1,000 feet of 2 1/2" hose, 300 feet of chemical hose, one 40 gallon chemical tank, two 25' ladders, two 12' roof ladders, two scaling ladders, a roof ladder, turret pipes, axes, and other paraphernalla [sic]." Chief Brockwell drives one truck and "Assistant Chief Farmer" drives the other under "regular chauffeurs are trained for the work." Cost of the fire engines purchased from the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company is $9800. Photos and more information. (February 6, 1913, or by Monday after said date)rfdar

Station 3 at 135 W. Hargett Street opens this week with a horse-drawn hose wagon, a Captain, and six men. (February 10, 1913)rt10feb13

Murphey Grade School at 423 N. Person Street burns. Fire is reported at 10:20 a.m. from Box 14. School building wins new record for school evacuation. Though the morning fire does "no worse damage than semi-destruction of the furnace," writes the News & Observer on February 15, "the life of every one of the 415 children was again put in jeopardy." "The blaze never reached the point of furnishing a thrilling escape." "The fire company responded very quickly for the heavy street and put out a blaze which would have soon ruined the first floor." "The escape of the children was the most orderly procedure ever witness here under literal fire" takes place under a minute using stairs and fire escapes. "The work of Sherwood Brockwell, fire chief, has been largely educational, and it was he who caused to be written into an ordinance a provision that the fire escapes be kept free from slipperiness in bad weather. Yesterday morning [Principal Miss Pearle Cross] ordered the janitor to remove the snow from the steps. The janitor saw no need of it, but obeyed." "It has been said that no better record has been made than this one; that no building of this size has ever been emptied more speedily" notes the newspaper, comparing to the "fire trap in one of the Cleveland schools in which 263 children were roasted six years ago." The cause of the fire is "the overheating of the furnace." And "the horses beat the machines this time, and but for the falling of a horse with the Rescue team, both wagons would have gone ahead." [UF] (February 14, 1913)rt14feb13, no feb1513

The paid fire department is now fully organized," reports the The Raleigh Times. "There are three companies, each having a captain, a lieutenant, and six firemen, except Company No. 3., which is what is known as a single company; that is has no double apparatus." The full membership:

Company Quarters Personnel
No. 1 112 W. Morgan Street
  • B. C. Joyner, Captain
  • Hubert H. Horton, Lt.
  • John D. Jones
  • W. M. Niblack
  • Eugene A Lassiter
  • Lewis F. Hicks
  • Andrew J. Martin
  • Roscoe M. Simmons
No. 2 Fayetteville Street
  • Archie A. Doolittle, Captain
  • Henry N. Parrish, Lt.
  • Edward W. Blake
  • W. Lee Justice
  • Oka T. Hester
  • D. Clarence Lloyd
  • William W. Hill,
  • Samuel A. Nichols
No. 3 135 E. Hargett Street
  • Peter G. Welch, Captain
  • Matthew J. Barker
  • Robert B. Maynard
  • Edmund E. Jones
  • W. Ernest Holland
  • J. B. Gaston

Read entire article. (February 22, 1913)

All volunteer fire companies are declared out of commission. From the March 7, 1913 city minutes:

Be it ordained by the Board of Aldermen of the City of Raleigh

Section 1 - That on and after this date all Volunteer Fire Companies and all members thereof are hereby put out of commission; and no Volunteer Company or member thereof shall be allowed to respond to any alarm of Fire, as an organization of the Fire Department of the City of Raleigh, or as a member thereof; no Hose Wagon, Engine, Hand Reel, or other Fire apparatus of any Volunteer Fire Company shall be allowed to use the streets of the city in answering any Fire Alarm; nor shall any Volunteer Fire Department or any member thereof, or any person whatsoever not a member of Raleigh Fire Department connect any hose or other fire apparatus to any Hydrant, stand-pipes, or other hydrant connections in the city; that no Volunteer Fire Company or any member thereof shall be allowed to use at any Engine-House, Fire Station, or other building used by the Raleigh Fire Department; provided that the above ordinance shall not apply to factories, cotton mills, manufacturing plants, schools, or any organizations who may organize their own private fire department for the prevention of fire in their own buildings and shall keep their apparatus on their own premises and shall at all times be under the supervision and direct control of the Chief of Raleigh Fire Department.

Section 2 - Any ordinances and clauses of ordinances in conflict with this ordinance are hereby repealed.

Section 3 - Any person violating this ordinance shall be subjected to a penalty of $25. (March 7, 1913)cm

Fire department placed under the protection of Civil Service. As ratified into law by the General Assembly, the amendment to the City Charter protects each member's position from being opened to "another and more favored person." No member can be discharged without "good and sufficient causes." The legislation also requires new members pass a "rigid physical examination" before being hired. (March 1913)no11mar13

News & Observer building on Martin Street destroyed. Fire is reported about 6:00 p.m. as night shift is preparing to start. Firefighting efforts are hampered when a water main breaks about 7:15 p.m., with pressure not returning until about 9:00 p.m. Chief Brockwell directs the steamer to the intersection of Fayetteville and Davie streets, to utilize one of the city's old cisterns. Some 1,000 people from Durham join spectators at the scene, having returned from a ballgame. The capacity of the underground reservoir is 45,000 gallons. Loss over $75,000 [MF] (April 24, 1913)no25apr13

Station 1 adds a monkey to the roster. Read account of Molly the Monk. (November 18, 1913)

City Commissioners order the extension of the fire district, taking in "all of the square bounded on the north by Martin street, on the south by Davie, on the west by McDowell and on the easy by Salisbury." Another "includes the territory commencing at the intersection of Davie and Fayetteville, along Fayetteville 210 feet, then east to Wilmington, thence north to Davie and along the latter street to Fayetteville." The third "takes in the entire block bounded by Wilmington, New Bern Avenue, Blount and Morgan streets." Same is done to expedite installation of a new water main and pumps. (October 17, 1913)rt17oct13

Giersch Hotel at corner of Fayetteville and Hargett Streets burns. Fire is reported at 10:05 a.m. from Box 29 amid "thousands and thousands of people on the streets." Dozens of onlookers arrive, "expecting a real fire." Damage is confined to the kitchen chimney and air shaft. [UF] (October 23, 1913)rt23oct13

Leonard Building at Shaw University burns. Fire is reported about 1:00 a.m. in the rear of the Judson Payne Leonard Medical Building, in 1908 section of the 1881 building. Damage is estimated at nearly $5,000. [UF] (November 8, 1913)rt03nov13

Repair shops at Glenwood Yards burn. The Norfolk Southern Railway facility, "directly north of Pilot Mills and near Pigeon House branch," is closed at the time of the blaze. No water is available and Raleigh firefighters go "no further than Pilot Mills." Damage is estimated at $2,500. [MF?] (December 20, 1913)rt22dec13


Hill's city directory dated 1913-14 summarizes department as:

  • Chief - Sherwood Brockwell
  • Assistant - C. D. Farmer
  • Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, Morgan near Salisbury - H. H. Horton, foreman
  • Rescue Company No. 1, Fayetteville near County Court-House - Jesse R. Williams, foreman
  • Hose Company No. 1, Morgan near Salisbury - H. H. Horton, foreman
  • Hose Company No. 2, Fayetteville near County Court-House - A. A. Doolite, foreman
  • Hose Company No. 3, corner Blount and Hargett - Peter J. Welsh, foreman.

Wake Water Company sold to city. 07sep15

City charter repealed by Legislative Act. New charter replaces Board of Aldermen with commissioner form of government. The Commission of Public Safety oversees the market house and the health, police, and fire department.no26apr42

1914

Seaboard Air Line Railway coal chute burns. Fire is reported at 3:00 a.m. The 250 ton-capacity building catches fire near top and takes nine hours to extinguish. Insufficient pressure prevents streams from reaching the top. The $15,000 structure was built ten years ago. [MF] (January 26, 1914)rt26jan14

Jenkins Memorial Chapel in the Glenwood and Brooklyn suburbs burns. Fire is reported shortly before 11:00 a.m. as a small blaze in the rear of the roof. A misunderstood alarm signal sends firefighters to a different location at first. A telephone message brings another fire company to the correct location, but after the fire has gained headway. With only two streams and insufficient pressure to douse the flames, Chief Brockwell summons the steamer and sends a "motor car" back for it. The driving chain of the motor car breaks en route and horses must be located to bring the steamer to the scene. By the time the steamer arrives, the church is nearly entirely destroyed. Many spectators on hand, however, save all of the furniture, the organ, pews, and chairs. The cause of the fire is suspected as a defective flue. The church is insured for $4,000. The Raleigh Times leads funds to restore the burned building. [MF] (March 3, 1914)rt04mar14

Fire Chief Sherwood Brockwell responds to The Raleigh Times regarding of the Jenkins Memorial Chapel fire. Read his entire letter the newspaper. (March 5?, 1914)rt05march14

Textile building at A&M College burns. Fire is reported at 2:45 a.m. by the campus whistle sounds. Students and faculty, and residents of west Raleigh are aroused. Entire southwestern portion of third floor is enveloped in flames. The entire student body soon shows on the scene, with some students running to various hose stations on campus. Soon three streams are played on the burning building. Poor water pressure, however, prevents the streams from effectively reaching the third floor. By the time of the arrival of a Raleigh Fire Department steamer and hose wagons, the entire third floor is engulfed in flames and the second floor has started burning. Despite improved pressure, the building cannot be saved. Due to a slight breeze from the southeast, a continuous shower of sparks strikes a small wooden building occupied by Jones' cafe. One of the streams is kept trained on the cafe building, to prevent it from catching. The fire is brought under control a little after 5:00 a.m. Firefighters, assisted by a number of students, work with hose until about 7 a.m. During the extinguishing effort, nearly the entire west wall collapses, narrowing missing a number of students trying to fight the flames. The loss is estimated at $80,000. Read related article from Raleigh Times. [MF] (March 25, 1914)

Three blocks burn in downtown Durham. The million-dollar blaze begins at 10:30 p.m. on March 23, 1914, with the fire still burning through the following noon. Neighboring city does not request aid. Raleigh's Mayor, Commissioner of Public Safety, and Fire Chief Sherwood Brockwell travel to Durham the next morning in a city automobile to "look after the conditions as to the fire" there. The City Commission meets on the same day, mentions the fire and takes up the issue of Raleigh needing a gasoline pumping engine here and abolishing the plan for "direct pressure" to be available from fire hydrants. [MA] (March 24, 1914)rt24mar14

Station note: Bond issue passes with $6,000 included for purchase of lot and construction for new Station 2. (April 16?, 1914)rt16apr14

Station note: Bids opened for construction of new Station 2. The highest amount is $9,079; the lowest amount is $5,986.15. (May 18, 1914)rt18may14

Apparatus note: Contract placed for first gasoline-powered pumping engine. Chief Brockwell notes that the engine will "displace one pair of horses, thereby cutting down expenses and at the same time filling a need." (June 29?, 1914)rt29jun14

Hose Company 2 relocates to Station 1. (June ? 1914)

Original Rescue Company station on Fayetteville Street demolished after Wake County reclaims building site located on Courthouse lot. (July 1 or so, 1914)rt07rt14

Charles D. Farmer appointed second Fire Chief, serves 1914-1919. Farmer joined the fire department in 1912. Sherwood Brockwell, the  Chief, takes a position with the state insurance department and becomes first state Fire Marshal. (August 1, 1914)rt11jul14

Fire department personnel organized into split shifts. The day shift works 14 hours, and the night shift works 10 hours. The day shift starts duty right after breakfast, eats dinner on duty, and leaves at supper time. Each fireman also gets one day off each week. (August 1914)rt02aug14

Brooklyn School on N. Boylan Avenue burns. Fire is reported at 9:00 p.m. by passer-by. The wooden structure is nearly destroyed and the loss is estimated at about $2,500. Firefighters lay three lines. [MF?] (August 11, 1914)rt12aug14

Station 2 opens at 412 S. Salisbury Street. The building [ and lot? ] costs $6,000. Photos and more information. (September? 1914)yb84

Apparatus note: First pumper delivered, a 1914 American LaFrance Type 12 Pumper, 800 GPM, "combination hose and pumper," 100 HP, 6 cylinder, serial number 683. The apparatus is placed in service as Hose Company 1. The hose car at Station 1 is relocated to Station 2. The hose car at Station 2 is relocated to Station 3. The horse team at Station 3 is placed in reserve. Photos and more information. (November 1914)no, 12nov14


Fire alarm bell moved from Metropolitan Hall to tower at Station 1.rt03mar38

Sanborn fire insurance map describes fire department and water supply as

  • 24 full paid men Four horses. 
  • One Metropolitan 3rd class steam fire engine. 
  • Two American LaFrance automobile combination chemical and hose wagons and tractors for drawing steamers, each carrying 1200' 2 1/2" hose, 300' chemical hose, one 40 gallon chemical tank, two 25' ladders, two 12' roof ladders, and two scaling ladders. 
  • Two hose wagons drawn by horses each carrying 1000' 2 1/2" hose, two 18' scaling ladders, one 20' ladder and one roof ladder (one wagon equipped with a turret pipe). 
  • One city service truck, longest ladder 30'. 7100' 2 1/2" hose in all. 
  • One American LaFrance gasoline pumping engine, 800 gallons capacity, has been ordered and will soon be in service. 
  • Gamewell fire alarm system. 52 boxes.
  • 29 miles of water pipes, 4" to 16" diameter
  • 231 double hydrants, 2 single hydrants.
  • City population 26,000. 

1915

Blizzard strikes city, causing $30,000 in damage. The fire alarm system is "put out of order" and Chief Farmer requests all calls to the fire department be made by telephone. [WE] (April 3, 1915)rt03apr15

Wake Forest Machinery & Hardware Company in Wake Forest burns. Engine 1 responds, leaving at 10:10 p.m. and arriving in 35 minutes. The 17-mile run is made partly in a driving ran. A bucket brigade is working when firefighters arrive. After the pumper exhausts the 3,000 gallon water tank within five minutes, the firemen are forced to watch as flames practically gut the three-story building. They also assist with the bucket brigade, which resumes after the water tank is drained. Damaged to the building and its contents is estimated at $20,000. The company was less than a year old. The fire is believed to be "incendiary" in origin, and starts on the second floor. [MA] (June 30, 1915)rt01jul15

Murphey Grade School at 423 N. Person Street burns. Fire is reported at 3:00 a.m., by Mr. H. M. London who lives on Polk Street between Person and Blount streets. Firefighters quickly respond but cannot prevent the destruction of the building. Smoke is thick and flames leap from the windows of the wooden, frame structure. Firemen fight "until longer after daybreak." Having started around the staircase, the fire completely ruins four upstairs assembly rooms as well as the classrooms. The downstairs portion of the building is also badly damaged. During the last session, some 500 children attended the school. Damage about $8,000. [MF] (July 1, 1915)rt01jul15

Fire Department takes part in "Fair Parade in company with the Durham Fire Department" (October 19, 1915)

Residence at Martin and Bloodworth Streets burns. From the September 2 edition of The Raleigh Times: "A bright blaze early Wednesday night beckoned a big crowd to the corner of Martin and Bloodworth streets. The flames came from the home of D. Eisenberg, who resides on Martin street, next to the southwest corner. Before the assistance of the fire department would be secured the house was nearly a wreck, not because of any delay on the part of the boys in responding, but because of the fact that there was nobody at home when the fire broke out and it was not discovered until it had gotten considerably headway. The loss is said to have been about $500. How the fire started is not known. There was a suspicion that somebody entered the home in the absence of the family and fired it. Another theory is that a lamp exploded." [UF] (September 1, 1915)rt02sept15

Fire destroys four buildings in Oberlin. Firefighters respond to the out-of-city alarm about 1 a.m. Total losses are between $3,000 and $4,000. A grocery store run by Balaam Shepard and three adjacent houses are destroyed. [MF] (October 4, 1915)rt04oct15

Apparatus note: City commission votes to buy an "aerial fire truck." The 75-foot apparatus costs $11,500, with delivery due in February. Fire Chief Farmer tells the commission that purchasing same will "cinch the low insurance rate that Raleigh has." He notes this is the only place in North Carolina that has a "first-class rate without any penalty." (October 4, 1915)rt04oct15

Raleigh Fire Department hosts neighboring firefighters during "Durham Day." Later, Durham Secretary of Police and Fire Commission Carl P. Norris sends Chief Farmer the following letter: "Just want to write this to thank you and your splendid men, on behalf of the commissioners and fire department of Durham, for the many kindnesses shown us yesterday, while we were your guests. There is only one trouble about it, all our firemen want to join your department, they were treated so nicely. To say the least, you did nobly and your hospitality was royal. Any time, night or day, you need Durham's fire department, just call us and we will be there. You and your boys come to see us." (October 2_, 1915)rt23oct15

Raleigh Times article describes ladder training: "The members of the Raleigh fire department were on Friday afternoon given a drill in the difficult task of handling and climbing a building with a scaling ladder. The scaling ladder is a fire fighting apparatus that, though used very little in Raleigh, is used very much in large cities where there are many tall buildings and fires that burn from the inside, necessitating the climbing of the building from the outside. The tower of the Morgan street station was used for the drills held yesterday afternoon. The men were drilled in every use of the scaling ladder from placing it in the correction position to the actual scaling of a building. Each man was required to scale the series of ladders which were placed on the tower and then make the trip back down again. Such drills are given the men of Raleigh's fire fighting machine yesterday if kept up will place them in a state of efficiency second to none." (October 1, 1915)rt

Fire destroys several buildings on W. Martin Street. Described by The Raleigh Times as the worst fire in Raleigh's history, the blaze destroys over $300,000 of property. Started at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, fire broke out in either the second or third story of the E. M. Uzzell & Company printing company building. Flames soon spread to the News & Observer building to the east, to the Wake Shoe Company to the west, and finally to the Crystal Theater. Flames also swept up the east wall of the Raleigh Apartments building, starting fires on both the third of fifth floors. The store of O' Quinn & and Company is also badly damaged and a large brick storehouse owned by the apartments is destroyed.

D. C. Lloyd of Hose Company 2 and H. L. Peebles of Hose Company 3 are injured when the wall of the Uzzell building falls. Peebles suffers bruises "about the body and arms" by the falling bricks; Lloyd's head is "severely bruised" and his head and neck are burned. Both are carried to Rex Hospital, but Peebles leaves and returns to the fire scene as soon as his injuries are treated. Both were on the top of the Wake Shoe Company building, playing a stream on the Uzzell building, when the western wall of that building collapsed. The bricks fell over both the Shoe Company and the Crystal Theater, carrying both firemen through the roofs of both buildings. Peebles regained consciousness on the bottom floor of the theater, while Lloyd escaped death inside the shoe store. P. J. Scott of Hose Company 1 is also injured when a nozzle gets away from him and bruises him on the knee. Firefighter Ernest Bridgers is also injured, receiving bruises "about the knees and legs."

Fire Chief Sherwood Brockwell is also on scene and assists with one of the streams on the Uzzel building. The blaze is so intense that the embers start 10 other fires in the vicinity and charred paper is reportedly picked up as far as Apex, 16 miles away. The crowd of spectators that gathers reaches almost the size seen at the State Fair. Hundreds send their condolences, including President Woodrow Wilson, who wires a special message to News & Observer Editor Joseph Daniels, then Secretary of the Navy. Thousands more visit the scene on Sunday, with firefighters keeping a steady stream of water on the smoldering ruins. Read more about this fire. [MF] (November 6, 1915)rt06nov15


Last horse retired from duty; department becomes fully motorized with motor cars to pull both the hook and ladder wagon and the steamer. yb84

Hill's city directory dated 1915-16 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 110-112 W. Morgan
  • Chief - Charles D. Farmer
  • Assistant - A. A. Doolittle
  • Hose Company No. 2, S. Salisbury near Davie - J. D. Jones foreman
  • Hose Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan - H. H. Horton foreman
  • Hose Company No. 3, corner Blount and Hargett - H. M. Parrish foreman.
Fire Department summary of year:
  • answered 161 alarms, of which 67 are false
  • laid 35,150 feet of 2 1 /2 inch hose and 2,750 feet of chemical hose
  • used 875 gallons of chemicals
  • raised 1416 feet of straight ladders and 528 of feet roof ladders.
  • total amount of buildings at risk is $780,000
  • total amount of damage to buildings is $70,491
  • either the Department or one company answers three calls outside of the city: A&M College, Wake Forest, and Oberlin.

Alarms answered, by company:

Hose Company 1 146
Hose Company 2 127
Hose Company 3 90

Probable causes of fires are:

Defective Flues 7 Sparks from locomotives 6 Gasoline exploding 3
Chimneys burning out 29 Lamps exploding 1 Fields on fire 5
Incendiary 6 Spontaneous combustions 3 Causes 13
Unknown 2 Oil stoves exploding 1 Children playing with matches 3
Electric wiring 4 Starting fire with oil 2 Automobile backfire 3
Rats and matches 6        

52 alarm boxes installed.

1916

Apparatus delivery: 1916 American LaFrance Type 17 aerial ladder, placed in service as Truck 1. Photos and more information. (February 10, 1916)ar, rfdar

Wyatt Building and other structures burn. Fire destroys wooden stables occupied by Mr. Ed Chappell, the large brick building occupied by Job P. Wyatt and Sons Company, and partly destroys the building belonging to Mr. Frank Stronach. Fire originates in the old frame stable occupied by Mr. Chappell. "Owing to the high wind and the negligence on the part of the owners of the Wyatt Building to compile with the ordinance in regard to fire shutters on all buildings in the fire district," the flames whip around the southeast corner of the building and enter the windows, setting fire to same. "Owing to the intense heat caused from the wooden structure adjoining it and the high wind at this time, the two streams from the pumper that were playing on this side of the building" do not reach the base of the fire. Inflammable material in the building causes the large steel beams of the Wyatt Building to expand and push the walls over on the north side, crushing and setting fire to the Stronach Building. At that point, the fire chief telephones Durham "to send their pumper" as it appears "the entire block was going." Water Department is also contacted and asked to provide as much pressure as is safely possible. Upon arrival of Durham Fire Department, fire is well under control. The Durham firefighters provide assistance with handling the nozzles and other tasks. Firefighter H. H. Horton suffers eye injuring while fighting flames. Injuries not serious. Firefighter W. L. Choplin suffers sprain in side, muscles not seriously injured while holding nozzle. City physician is called. [MF] (May 2, 1916)

Rev. Lyman K. Dills, pastor of Pullen Memorial Church, is appointed Chaplain of the Raleigh Fire Department. According to Chief Charles Farmer, it is the first appointment of its kind in North Carolina. The appointment entitles Rev. Dills to membership in the North Carolina State Firemen's Association. (July 7, 1916)rt

Raleigh Times articles summaries fire department as:

  • twenty-eight fully paid men, all well drilled in the art of preventing and fighting fire
  • among these men is a crew of six which is called 'First Aid Crew,' to protect the lives of people that happen to the misfortune of being suffocated by smoke, gas, drowning, or electric shock.
  • department has three stations located on extreme ends of the fire district, all in easy reach of the center of the congested district and also accessible to any part of the city.
  • Fifty-two fire boxes are also cited.
  • fire apparatus is "all motorized
  • consists of two combination American LaFrance trucks, each carrying 1200 feet of 2 1/2 inch service hose, 46 gallons of chemicals, and 300 feet of chemical hose, one turret-pipe attached to body of truck for high pressure service, 24 feet of extension ladder, 12-foot roof ladder, axe, and other small equipment
  • one combination pumper and hose wagon-- American LaFrance-- this carries 1200 feet of 2 1/2 inch service hose, 6 gallons of chemicals, ladders and other equipment; this piece of apparatus eliminates the necessity for direct pressure on the water system
  • one 75-foot aerial truck with 75-foot ladder, 177 feet of straight ladders, life net, buckets, door openers, pike poles, and all necessary implements for fighting fires and saving lives
  • department has, also, one third-size steamer kept in reserve and drawn by motor truck in case of necessity." (July 15, 1916)

North Carolina State Firemen's annual convention and tournament held in Raleigh. (July 17-21, 1916)

Fire Department participates in Labor Day parade. (September 4, 1916)

Fire Department participates in State Fair Parade. (October 18, 1916)


Fire department answers 139 alarms of which 68 "smoke issued," 41 were "unnecessary," and 30 are false, lays 31, 500 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose and 4,000 feet chemical hose, raises 1364 feet of straight ladders and 360 feet of roof ladders, and uses 1603 gallons of chemicals. Total value of buildings at risk is $791.550. Total value of damage is $40,634.50. Average fire loss per capita is $4.22. Eight calls answered outside city: one to Cary, six to West Raleigh, and one to storehouse on Tarboro Road.

Alarms answered, by company:

Hose Company 1 112
Truck Company 1 47
Hose Company 3 87
Hose Company 3 73

Probable causes of fires are:

Defective Flues 3 Ashes in barrels 3 Cigarette 2
Chimneys burning out 7 Grease on hot stoves 2 Sparks from chimneys 22
Incendiary 5 Gas pipes lighted by workmen 1 Building fires in yards 2
Unknown 5 Lamps exploding 1 Burning paint with blow torch 2
Electric wiring 3 Electric irons 2 Hot pokes in wood box 1
Rats and matches 3 Oil stove too close to wall 1 Other causes 26
Sparks from locomotives 10 Smoking in bed 1    

1917

Experienced department members join armed forces in World War I, entering shipyards and other war-producing plants. Ranks filled from military personnel stationed near Raleigh, customarily allowed to occupy dormitories of the fire department. From Camp Polk come several experienced officers from the likes of Buffalo, New York, and other big-city departments. yb84
 


Fire Station 1 remodeled during Fiscal Year 1917 at cost of $387. cad

Hill's city directory dated 1917 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 110-112 W. Morgan
  • Chief - Charles D. Farmer
  • Assistant - A. A. Doolittle
  • Hose Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan - H. H. Horton foreman
  • Hose Company No. 2, S. Salisbury near Davie - J. D. Jones foreman
  • Hose Company No. 3, corner Blount and Hargett - H. M. Parrish foreman
  • Truck Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan.

1918

Apparatus delivery: 1918 American LaFrance Type 45 pumper, 750 GPM, serial number 2018. Photos and more information. rfdar

Hill's city directory dated 1918 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 110-112 W. Morgan
  • Chief - Charles D. Farmer
  • Assistant - A. A. Doolittle
  • Hose Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan - H. H. Horton foreman
  • Hose Company No. 2, S. Salisbury near Davie - J. D. Jones foreman
  • Hose Company No. 3, 110-112 W. Morgan
  • Truck Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan.

1919

Chief Farmer resigns. (July 31, 1919)cm

Hubert H. Horton appointed Acting Fire Chief, later appointed Chief of Department on October 1, 1921, serves 1919-1923. Horton joined the fire department in 1912. (August 1, 1919)cm

Vehicle delivery: Oldsmobile "roadster automobile" for Fire Chief. (December 10, 1919)cm

Mechanical engineering and woodcraft building at A&M College burns. Fire originates in box of shavings outside building. Flames had gained good headway when fire is discovered about 10:30 and the eastern section of the building is a "roaring furnace" when the Raleigh Fire Department is called. About a dozen streams of water are directed on the building, with firefighter's attempting to save the unburned western portion of the building. The building, one of the newest on campus, had been closed for the holidays. Damage is estimated at $75,000. [MF] (December 31, 1919)rt01Jan20


Hill's city directory dated 1919-20 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 110-112 W. Morgan
  • Chief - Charles D. Farmer
  • Assistant - H. H. Horton
  • Hose Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan - George W. Higgins, Captain
  • Hose Company No. 2, S. Salisbury near Davie - W. A. McKnight, Captain
  • Hose Company No. 3, 110-112 W. Morgan
  • Truck Company No. 1, 110-112 W. Morgan.



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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