Raleigh Fire Department History

1950-1959

1950

Six stations protecting 10.9 square miles and 65,679 residents.


Apparatus delivery: 1950 FWD pumper, placed in service as Engine 4. First modern pumper purchased by fire department. Photos and more information. (March 3, 1950)rfd

Apparatus delivery: 1950 Mack pumper, placed in service as Engine 6. Photos and more information. (March 1950)ccm

Two shifts created, with added personnel 24 hours on duty and 24 hours off duty. Off-shift members are required to respond to extra alarms. Firefighters receive 15 days of vacation a year with pay and are entitled to 10 days accumulating sick leave per year up to 60 days. (spring 1950?)yb84 [See 1946 for alternate date]

Girls dormitory at Saint Augustine College on Oakwood Avenue burns. Fire reported 9:20 a.m. by telephone. Morning blaze sweeps through the top floors and the roof. Firefighters battle blaze for "nearly two hours" and sustain one injuries. Fireman D. D. Collins is hospitalized with a "broken blood vessel in his leg" after being struck by "the flailing end of a broken hose connection." Two others fall from the roof to the third floor when "burning rafters" collapse, but Captain J. T. Honeycutt and firefighter James Ellis suffer only bruises. The forty year-old, three-story brick structure houses about 70 students and challenges firefighters who experience difficulty playing their "streams of water" into the many "narrow-spaced rooms." Three lines and 3,250 feet of hose. Loss $63,750. [MF] (November 26, 1950)rt27nov50, rfd


Fire department organized into three divisions: Administration, Prevention, and Firefighting.

Hill's city directory dated 1950 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 412 S. Salisbury - dial 7733
  • Chief - Alvin B. Lloyd
  • Assistant Chief - R. Lee Matthews
  • Engine Company No. 1, 412 S. Salisbury - Jas M. Burnette and Royce C Lassiter, Captains
  • Aerial and Service Truck Company No. 2, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L Hayes and James P. Blake Captain
  • Engine Company No. 3, 135 East Hargett - Edward G. McGhee and Dani L. Brannan, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 4, 505 Jefferson - James A Poole and Oscar Summers, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 5, 1914 Park Dr. - Jack B. Keeter, Ulysses M. Ennis, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 6, Fairview Road corner Oberlin Road - Theo Honeycutt, John G. Harrison, Captain
  • Aerial Truck Company No. 1 & Truck Company No. 1, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L. Hayes, Captain.

Insurance Services Office (ISO)surveys city and awards a conditional Class 3 rating. Following improvements to the water system and the start of upgrades to the fire department, a Class 3 rating is confirmed. ccm

1951

City council approves construction of additional room at Station 4, for use as kitchen. Firefighters agree to do work, if City provides $1174 in materials. (January, 2, 1951)ccm

Engine 3 collides with a bus at intersection of Bloodworth and Martin Streets. The 1920s American LaFrance pumper strikes a city bus at Bloodworth and Martin Streets while answering a fire call to 506 Smithfield Street. Impact of crash "[bounces] the fire truck into the home of Mrs. L. R. Ennis at 405 E. Martin St." The bus "[careens] through the front of an unoccupied store at 406 E. Martin St." Only one person on both vehicles in injured, "Fireman James T. Talton." He's taken to Rex Hospital for examination and is "released shortly afterwards" writes the February 9 edition of the Raleigh Times. "Both the driver of the fire truck and the other [three] firemen on the vehicle said the siren was on at the time of the crash. However, the bus driver did not hear it." Adds the newspaper " Front ends of both the vehicles were badly damaged." Adds a February 9 News & Observer writer "The wreck occurred about 10:15 o'clock." [AI] (February 8, 1951)

Auxiliary to the Raleigh Fireman's Association formed. Meeting of some 41 firefighters wives is called by W. E. Pollard, President of Local No. 548, for purpose of forming a ladies' auxiliary. Temporary officer are elected: Mrs. W. E. Pollard, President and Mrs. M. T. Parker, Secretary. The organization is chartered on May 25. The first officers were Ellie Pollard (wife of Edward) as President, Hazel Matthews (wife of Lee) as Vice President, Louise Parker (wife of May) as Secretary, Louise Johnson (honorary member) as Treasurer, Louise High (wife of Roy) as Chaplain, and Mary Alice Foy (wife of James) as Sergeant-at-Arms. There were forty-three charter members. Roles and duties for members included Historian, Scrapbook, By Laws and Constitution, Group Captains, Membership Chairman, Publicity Chairman, Program Chairman, Program Committee, Social Committee, and Ways and Means Committee. Their mission was to extend aid and sympathy to all members of the fire department and their families. They kept a close watch on the well-being of firemen and family members. They sent cards and gifts when people were sick, paid visits to them in hospitals, and brought food for bereaving families.   The auxiliary also supported fire department activities. On October 5, 1953, they hosted an open house at Station 1 on the day of its dedication. Also that year, they began creating scrapbooks with photos and clippings about the fire department, its members, their families, and the auxiliary. They conducted regular meetings and performed charity work, including annual adoptions of orphans to celebrated holidays and birthdays. They donated money to charity causes and to support firefighters. In 1964, they gave $20 toward an air-conditioning unit at Station 7. For fundraisers, they sold cards, candy, dish towels, dandy-duz-its, food flavoring, and more. Later in the decade, auxiliary members started serving refreshments at fires. In January 1961, a Coffee Committee was formally organized to provide canteen service at second-alarm fires. Notified by the dispatcher, the Coffee Committee responded to Station 6. The first to arrive started a large urn of coffee, while others opened cans of meat stored at the station. They made dozens of sandwiches to take to the scene, along with cups, plates, napkins, and a case of bottled drinks. The Coffee Committee disbanded in 1969. The Ladies Auxiliary remained active into the seventies, and continued to hold meetings as late as 1978. (May 21, 1951)las, chb

Budget for 1950-51 includes approval for:

  • Assistant Mechanic, salary $2,540
  • Chief Dispatcher, salary $2,640. (July 1, 1950)bd

Station 3 opens at 13 S. East Street, replacing earlier station at 135 W. Hargett Street. Houses 1920s American LaFrance pumper. Cost of the station and furnishings is about $40,000. Photos and more information. (July 26, 1951)rt28jul51

Trucking warehouse on S. Blount Street Extension burns. An exploding stove in the office of Associated Transport Company, which shares the building with Helms Motor Express Company, starts the pre-dawn blaze. Three fire companies battle for three hours before getting fire under control. Firefighters also extinguish a "field of high grass behind the terminal" that repeatedly catches fire. Spectators are kept "jumping and jittery" by "exploding live ammunition and popcorn." [MF] (November 30, 1951)rt30nov51

Apparatus deliveries:

  • 1951 American LaFrance 700 Series pumper, placed in service as Engine 3
  • 1951 American LaFrance 700 Series pumper, placed in service as Engine 5
    Photos and more information. (December, 1951).

Hill's city directory dated 1951 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 412 S. Salisbury - dial 7733
  • Chief - Alvin B. Lloyd
  • Assistant Chief - R. Lee Matthews
  • Engine Company No. 1, 412 S. Salisbury - John W. Godwin Jr. and Royce C Lassiter, Captains
  • Aerial and Service Truck Company No. 2, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L Hayes and James P. Blake Captain
  • Engine Company No. 3, 135 E. Hargett - James A Poole and Daniel L. Brannan, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 4, 505 Jefferson - J. Theo Honeycutt and Oscar Summers, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 5, 1914 Park Dr. - Jack B. Keeter, Edward G. McGhee, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 6, Fairview Road corner Oberlin Road - Jack C. Crabtree, John G. Harrison, Captain
  • Aerial Truck Company No. 1 & Truck Company No. 1, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L. Hayes, Captain.

1952

K and W Motor Company at 118 E. Davie St. burns. Two buildings are "virtually gutted" and 29 automobiles are also destroyed. Early morning fire is powered by "exploding gasoline tanks." Seven fire companies "battle the blaze in a cold rain" and have the fire "under control in about two hours." Blaze breaks out about 2:50 a.m. [MF] (March 3, 1952)no04mar52

A&P Supermarket at 416 Hillsboro Street burns. Fire is discovered just after 6:00 p.m. and is brought under control just after 8:00 p.m. Three other buildings on 400 block of Hillsboro Street are threatened as flames shoot "as high as 40 feet into the air." Five fire companies answer the alarm. Three firemen are slightly injured: W. L. Mitchell, who receives cuts on his hand from flying glass, and A. W. Watkins and J. H. Poole with minor cuts and bruises. (March 23, 1952)rt24mar52

Engine 6 strikes a telephone pole on Beechridge Road just east of Lochmore Drive. The accident occurs shortly before 9:00 p.m., while responding to a grass fire on Oxford Road. While rounding the curve, the engine strikes the telephone pole, causing slight injury to Driver J. G. Harrison and fireman H. E. Partin. The former is transported to Rex Hospital for injuries to his left arm. Partin sustains leg injuries, but is not transported. J. T. Wall jumps from the truck and avoids injuries. E. J. Alford is riding in front, and also escapes injury. The engine swung to the left, to avoid a stopped delivery truck, then "skidded along a rock fence bordering the road, clipped the telephone in two, and then brushed a tree in the yard" of a house. The accident damaged the 1950 Mack pumper's front left fender, the bumper, the left running board, and the left rear fender. [AI] (June 7, 1952)no08jun52

Budget for 1952-53 includes approval for:

  • Second Assistant Fire Chief, salary $4,440
  • Third Fire Inspector
  • Third PBX Operator (July 1, 1952)bd

Engine 6 overturns on Lewis Farm Road. The 1926 American LaFrance, a reserve engine, overturns on a sharp curve where Brooks Avenue turns into Lewis Farm Road. The accident occurs while returning from a minor fire call at 602 Stacy Street. Captain J T. White is pinned underneath the engine for about 15 minutes until a wrecker arrives and lifts the vehicle off his broken legs. He also sustains back injuries Driver V. J. Smith is the most seriously injured with internal injuries, a compound fracture of his left leg, and a fractured skull. The three firefighters on the tailboard are luckier. J. T. Wall and H. E. Partin are released from Rex Hospital after treatment for shock and laceration. A. R. Woodlief stays overnight, under observation after being knocked unconscious in the accident. A broken brake lever is blamed for the accident. The City Council immediately approves funding for purchase of a new pumper, so the other 1926 reserve engine can be retired. Four of the five firefighters recover from their injuries, while Smith subsequently dies at Rex Hospital on March 10, 1956. Succumbing at Rex Hospital after 29 operations, he becomes the Raleigh Fire Department's first line-of-duty death. [AI] (November 14, 1952)no, rt

Fire Prevention Week parade held. Event starts at 4:00 p.m., forming on Halifax Street and moving down Edenton Street to Salisbury Street, then to Morgan Street and Fayetteville Street. Parade continues down Fayetteville Street to Memorial Auditorium. Participants include:

  • Mayor and City Manager riding in Fire Chief's car
  • Members of City Council in Fire Department car
  • Captain J.M. Burnette and members of Chamber's Fire Prevention Committee
  • State Fire Marshall Sherwood Brockwell in special car
  • Horse-drawn steamer
  • Decorated bicycles (white)
  • High school band (white)
  • Old [American LaFrance] 750 [GPM] pumper
  • Aerial fire truck
  • Decorated bicycles (Negro)
  • New [American LaFrance] fire truck pumper
  • High school band (Negro)
    (Monday on/after October 3, 1952)rt03oct52

Fire department gives safety instructions in December 13 edition of The Raleigh Times, including the following rules developed by the Bureau of Fire Prevention and the National Board of Underwriters:

  1. Choose a small tree instead of a large one. A small tree can be just as pretty and it's less of a hazard.
  2. Don't set up the tree until just a few days before Christmas. Keep the tree outdoors until ready to install it.
  3. Set up the tree in the coolest part of the house, away from radiators, heaters, or fireplaces. Stand it in water, which retards the drying out process.
  4. Do not use cotton or paper for decorating the tree unless these decorations have been fireproofed.
  5. Do not place electric trains around the tree.
  6. Never use candles. Use electric light sets only. Inspect every socket and wire to make sure the set is in good condition. Discard sets with frayed wiring.
  7. Use flameproof or fireproof decorations of glass or metal to decorate the tree.
  8. Remove gift wrappings promptly after gifts have been opened.
  9. Provide a switch some distance from the tree for turning tree lights off and on.
  10. Don't leave lights burning when no one is in the house. From time to time, inspect the tree and see whether any of the needles near the lights have started to turn brown. If so, change the position of the lights.
  11. When needles start falling, take the tree down and discard it.
  12. Do no overuse your circuit, use only 15 ampere fuses for lighting circuits.

Hill's city directory dated 1952 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 412 S. Salisbury - dial 7733
  • Chief - Alvin B. Lloyd
  • Assistant Chief - R. Lee Matthews
  • Engine Company No. 1, 412 S. Salisbury - John W. Godwin Jr. and Royce C Lassiter, Captains
  • Aerial and Service Truck Company No. 2, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L Hayes and James P. Blake Captain
  • Engine Company No. 3, 135 E. Hargett - James A Poole and Daniel L. Brannan, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 4, 505 Jefferson - J. Theo Honeycutt and Oscar Summers, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 5, 1914 Park Dr. - Jack B. Keeter, Edward G. McGhee, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 6, Fairview Road corner Oberlin Road - Jack C. Crabtree, John G. Harrison, J. F. White Captain
  • Aerial Truck Company No. 1 & Truck Company No. 1, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L. Hayes, Captain.

League of Women Voters Citizen's Guide summarizes department details including:

  • The duty of the fire department is to protect life and property in Raleigh. This includes a multitude of major and incidental duties, including some of courtesy and charity such as putting up street lights for churches and the YMCA. The "public attitude" that protection must be given when needed enlarges the scope of fire department duties beyond the physical limits of city property. State property, for example, relies on the fire department, though the state pays no city tax. As Raleigh's equipment is not entirely adequate for inside the city limits, the Fire Chief must use his discretion on what is protected outside the city limits, such as the Caraleigh and Longview areas. If one "station group" is out on a call inside the city, generally no calls are answered outside of the city until the "station group" has returned.
  • A training program is under the supervision of the drill master. No drill tower or training facilities are available. Drills are usually held at Station 6. Firemen drill every day; half the men drill in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. If weather conditions are not favorable to drilling, a two-hour "school period" is held. This consists of studying streets and building names, fire box locations, fire hydrant locations, and regular routes for answering calls. Outside drills consist of general practice with ladders and pumps.
  • The fire alarm system is under the supervision of the Fire Chief and is maintained by the Building and Electrical Inspector. He is assisted by two linemen, two helpers, and three telephone operators. Fire alarm headquarters are located in a separate office on Dawson Street near Martin. There are four trunk lines from the public telephone exchange to the board in fire headquarters. Three fire alarm operators (eight-hour shifts)are also located at the telephone switchboard in Station 1.
  • Response to fires is made by Carolina Power & Light Company and the Raleigh Gas Company by request only.
  • Outside aid is available within an hour from Durham, and the various small volunteer department surrounding Raleigh. Aid could also be obtained from Dunn, 40 miles away, or from Henderson, 45 miles away.
  • The City Manager appoints the chief officers, and all others are appointed by the Fire Chief. Both groups of appointments are subject to approval by the Civil Service Board. Appointment of new members is from an eligibility list established after written and oral Civil Service examinations. Entrance age limits for the fire department are from 21 to 32. Appointees are subject to a physical examination, a must serve a 60-day probationary period before being placed on a permanent basis. Printed rules and regulations covering conduct and activities of the firemen were last revised and issued in 1944, and are well enforced. The Chief has the power to suspend or dismiss members, subject to the approval of the Civil Service Board.
  • A city retirement plan was instituted January 1, 1949. This plan is supported by 4% of a member's salary, plus 11% salary contributed by the city. A fireman may voluntarily retired at 55, and must retired at the ago of 60, although the latter age, upon application, may be extended to 65. This plan also has compensation clauses for injuries sustained in the line of duty. There are several other relief plans supported by voluntary assessments and contributions.

1953

Apparatus delivery: 1953 American LaFrance 700 Series pumper, later placed in service as Engine 9 at Station 1. Photos and more information. (February-March, 1953)alf

Apparatus note: City Council approves application to federal Civil Defense program for purchase of rescue squad truck, noting the obligation that the rescue truck is considered a piece of "standby equipment subject to call to Norfolk, Virginia, in the event of an attack by enemy forces" (April 1953)ccm

Seaboard passenger train catches fire after striking Highway Department scraper at grade crossing in New Hill, six miles south of Apex. Accident occurs about 7:50 a.m. and no one is injured. Burning engine continues to Apex, where firefighters extinguish same. Train continues to Raleigh, where waiting firefighters extinguish small amount of fire still burning underneath one of the engines. [UF] (May 6, 1953)

Carolina Pines clubhouse on Fayetteville Road burns. Approximately 300 people are dancing inside club when fire is discovered at 9:15 by a police officer. No one is injured, however. Weak water pressure hampers the firefighting effort. Damage is estimated at $50,000. Hundreds of spectators crowd the area and Fayetteville Road is jammed with autos. [MF] (May 8, 1953)

Lightning starts fires at Glenwood Knitting Mills at 801 N. West Street and the Leonard Building at Shaw University. The former, a hosiery manufacturing plant, is set ablaze shortly before 3:20 a.m. Within an hour, the building is a total loss. Lightning strikes the Shaw University building around 3:00 a.m., soon sending one college official running to Station 2, located about 75 yards away, to sound the alarm. Reponses is apparently delayed, due to other working fire. Fire starts on a small tower on the building and spreads to the third-floor auditorium. Damage amounts to at least $25,000. [MF] (June 13, 1953)no14jun53

Budget for 1953-54 includes approval for:

  • Secretary for Administration
  • Third Fire Inspector
  • Four Dispatchers, combining PBX and Telephone Operator positions (July 1, 1953)bd

Apparatus delivery: 1953 American LaFrance 700 Series pumper, placed in service as Engine 1. Photos and more information. (July-August, 1953)alf

Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad, Incorporated chartered. The organization is formed after a driver is pinned under a truck on Hillsboro Street and criticism comes to the fire and police departments because of the delay in extricating the man. Criticism also comes after a drowning in the Neuse River several miles from Raleigh. After a week passes without anyone recovering the body, City Manager W. H. Harper asks Captain (?)Jack Keeter to help in any way he can. Keeter, Assistant Chief Lee Matthews, civilian Bob Biggs, and future police officer Andy Povlosky borrow a fishing boat from one man, a motor from another man, and transport both to the river in Keeter's pick-up truck. The four launch the boat, with Povlosky and Matthews riding around until they find and recover the body. Later, a Red Cross course is conducted with about 25 firefighters, plus civilians, attending. The Wake County Office of Civil Defense subsequently allocates $2,500 for a rescue truck and a 1954 GMC panel van is purchased. Local businesses donate materials and money to outfit the squad. A boat trailer is designed and built by squad members. The city provides the funds for two boats and two motors. Though the squad is comprised of volunteers, Keeter persuades the city to designate two firefighters as rescue officers. Harold Jones and Roma Wilder are subsequently sent to a rescue school in Maryland for further training. A second piece of apparatus, a 1954 Reo Civil Defense rescue truck, is obtained with the assistance of the federal government, with a requirement that the truck is considered as a piece "of stand-by equipment" that can be called to Norfolk, Virginia in the event of an "attack by enemy forces." Equipment carried on the 2 1/2-ton truck included torches, power saws, gas masks, helmets, and first-aid equipment. The county also provides $100 a month for the squad's work, with the funds used for the rescue officers insurance and any needed materials. By 1972, the number of dedicated personnel has expanded to include four firefighters. The squad doesn't compete with local ambulance services and doesn't transport patients unless an ambulance is not available. The squad is also still partly city-funded, and partially county- funded at that time. Vehicle photos and more information. (August 27, 1953)rfd, no16jul54, sos rt22apr72

New Station 1 completed at 220 S. Dawson Street. The two-story, three-bay building includes sleeping quarters for three companies and office space for Fire Administration and Fire Prevention. Upon opening, the aerial ladder is relocated to Station 1 from Station 2. Engine 1 and Engine 9 are housed at the station, along with the equipment of the Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad. Photos and more information. (October 5, 1953)yb84

Station 1 dedicated. " President E. L. Clancy of the Clancy Construction Company, which built the station [presents] the key to Mayor Fred Wheeler," who cut the ribbons opening the station. "City Manager W. H. Carper presided at the ceremonies" and paid tribute to "former mayors in whose administration the fire station project was begun and carried forward." Other speakers included Fire Chief A. B. Lloyd who traced the history of the department from "1802, when the first fire station was erected, to the present." Immediately following the dedication, the "Ladies Auxiliary of the Raleigh Fire Department held an open house and the station was open for tours by the public until 9 o'clock." "Of modern design," the fire station was constructed "at a cost of $112,788.28." Other costs included "$18,800 for the land, $4,164 for a driveway from Harrington Street, and $5,352.75 for furnishings." On the first floor "there is space for fire trucks, other fire equipment, and the department's offices. Sleeping quarters for personnel are on the second floor which also houses a lounge, a shower, and wash rooms." Two companies are housed at the station, headed by Captains R. C. Lassiter, C. L. Hayes, J. W. Godwin, and J. M. Blake. (October 5, 1953)no06oct53


Hill's city directory dated 1953 summarizes department as:

  • Headquarters - 412 S. Salisbury
  • Chief - Alvin B. Lloyd
  • Assistant Chief - R. Lee Matthews
  • Engine Company No. 1, 412 S. Salisbury - John W. Godwin Jr. and Royce C Lassiter, Captains
  • Aerial and Service Truck Company No. 2, 735 Fayetteville - Chas L Hayes and James P. Blake Captain
  • Engine Company No. 3, 135 E. Hargett - James A Poole and Daniel L. Brannan, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 4, 505 Jefferson - J. Theo Honeycutt and Oscar Summers, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 5, 1914 Park Dr. - Virgil G. Mims, Edward G. McGhee, Captain
  • Engine Company No. 6, Fairview Road corner Oberlin Road - Jack C. Crabtree, John G. Harrison, Ulysses Ennis, Captains.

1954

Block of downtown Sanford burns. Raleigh responds as mutual aid, along with firefighters from Fort Bragg and other neighboring cities. Blaze is battled for eight hours in freezing weather, flames sweeping through the two-story Brown's Auto Supply Co. that covers most of a downtown block. Flames are discovered at 1:10 a.m. Sanford is located 41.60 miles from Station 1. [MA] (January 28, 1954)rt28jan54

Movie theater in downtown Apex burns. Both Raleigh and Cary respond as mutual aid. See Apex Fire Department timeline. [MA] (April 4, 1954)

Drill tower constructed off Highway 15A South at present location of Keeter Training Center. Estimated cost of construction is $23,000. The 20 by 20-foot, five-story brick tower is approximately 60 feet high and includes fire escapes, a standpipe with sprinkler heads, and a "pumping center" to simulate fire conditions. Photos and more information. (Summer 1954)no15apr54

Hurricane Hazel strikes northeastern South Carolina, eye of Category 3 storm making landfall with 125 mph winds at 12:00 p.m. Eye of storm passes west of Raleigh with 90 mph or greater winds about 5:00 p.m. Fire department experiences one of its busiest weekends. Read weekend call log. [WE] (October 15, 1954.)

1955

Fire Chief A. B. Lloyd dies at Rex Hospital from a heart ailment. Members of neighboring fire departments stand by at city stations so firefighters can attend funeral services. Firefighters come from Cary, Greensboro, Wilmington, Durham, High Point, Winston-Salem, Apex, Burlington, Greenville, Rocky Mount, and Goldsboro to attend ceremony. (February 25, 1955)rfd

Jack B. Keeter appointed ninth Fire Chief, serves 1955-1973. Keeter joined the fire department in 1931. (February 25, 1955)yb84, no09may59, cm

Budget for 1955-56 includes approval for:

  • Fire Alarm Technician
  • Assistant Fire Alarm Technician (July 1, 1955)bd

Hurricane Diane strikes southern North Carolina, eye of Category 1 storm making landfall just west of Wilmington, NC, with 85 mph winds at 6:00 a.m. Eye of storm passes west of Raleigh with 70 mph winds about 6:00 p.m. [WE] (August 17, 1955)wral

Hurricane Ione strikes southeastern North Carolina, eye of Category 2 storm making landfall east of Wilmington, NC, with 105 mph winds at 6:00 a.m. Eye of storm passes many miles east of Raleigh with 75 mph winds at 12:00 p.m. [WE] (September 19, 1955)wral

Wake County Fireman's Association formed. Fire Chief Jack Keeter is one of the charter members. (November 23, 1955)yb84

First "Sunday school" classes conducted. Same are held at "No. 6 Station on Fairview at Oberlin Road" and at the "central fire station downtown." "Hymn books, Sunday School literature, and teachers" are supplied by local churches, which sponsor both classes. (November 5, 1955)rt14nov55

Taylor Building at 124 E. Hargett Street burns. Tenement section, located above Taylor's Billiard Parlor, catches fire after explosion which is reported to fire department at 7:05 a.m. Six hoses pump water into the building for "almost an hour." Fifteen occupants are sent "scurrying out into the street." [MF] (November 23, 1955)


Two-way radios installed on all apparatus with a base station in the Dispatcher's room at Station 1. yb84

Position of Driver changed to Fireman II; position of Private changed to Fireman I. (Fiscal year ending June 30, 1955)cb

Purchases: Automobiles for "Fire Administration" during Fiscal Year 1955 at cost of $1,593.16 cad

1956

Fire discovered in Seaboard Air Line Railway car in Apex. Northbound freight train is switched to side track in Raleigh, where firefighters extinguish flames. [UF] (May 15, 1956)rt16may56

Budget for 1956-57 includes approval for:

  • Drill Captain, salary $4,344.
  • Two Dispatchers, reduced from four. (July 1, 1956)bd

Edenton Street Methodist Church burns. Lightning strikes cross-tipped, 200-foot steeple at approximately 7:05 p.m. Resulting flames causes steeple to collapse at 8:10 p.m., with fire spreading to rest of church and threatening other buildings. Loss is estimated as at least $50,000. Building burned was built in 1881. [MF] (July 28, 1956)rt28jul56

Bernhard's Supply Company at 515 Hillsboro Street burns. The 7 a.m. fire is extinguished by 9:30 a.m. Five units and about 50 firefighters battle the blaze. [MF]  (October 20, 1956)rt20oct56

Fire department suffers first line-of-duty death when Driver Vernon J. Smith, 44, dies at Rex Hospital, succumbing to injuries occurred November 14, 1952 while operating Engine 6. Funeral services are held on March 12 at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, with burial at Montlawn Cemetery the same day. Fire Chief Jack B. Keeter, Assistant Fire Chief R. Lee Matthews, and fire department members James M. Burnette, James T. White, Herbert E. Partin, and Jack T. Wall serve as pallbearers. Smith joined the Raleigh Fire Department in 1942. (March 10, 1956)no11mar56

1957

Two-way radio base stations placed in service in all fire stations. Radio watch is started at all stations, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Each watch period is two hours. (February 7, 1957)rfd

Barnes Grocery at 222 N. Bloodworth Street burns. Fire starts just afternoon. Firefighters save main part of store after blaze rages through adjoining stockroom and in the attic. Damage estimates range between $5,000 and $6,000. Store is one of Raleigh's oldest neighborhood grocers. (February 12, 1957)no13feb57

Constructor worker rescued after being buried up to his chin in coal elevator for four hour sat the Wake Finishing Plant, some eight miles north of Raleigh. The Raleigh Rescue Squad responds, along with the fire department. An ambulance from Wake Forest also answers the call. [TR] (February 13, 1957)rt13feb57

Fire prevention classes for hospital and boarding home employees started. After two years, 1,684 nurses and employees have been instructed in putting out small fires and other emergency procedures. (Spring 1957)rt03jun59

Sportsman's Pad at 501 1/2 Hillsboro Street burns. While descending a set of smoke-filled stairs into the basement Playboy Lounge, two of the firefighters come into contact with live electrical wires and are knocked away from their safety line. They're promptly rescued and treated for "electrical shock" and "smoke poisoning." (April 9, 1957)

Apparatus delivery: 1957 FWD pumper, placed in service as Engine 4. Photos and more information. (July 9, 1957)rfd

Apparatus note: City Manager W. H. Carper will recommend to City Council that the 1936 American LaFrance pumper be "sent to the sidelines," reports the Raleigh Times on November 16, 1957. The engine has been acting like a "has been" for the past six or seven years, notes the story. Lead paragraph: "A former star once noted for fast runs has been bumped from the first team of the Raleigh Fire Department." (November 1957)


Vehicle purchase: automobiles for "Fire Administration" during Fiscal Year 1957 at cost of $2045.37. cad

1958

Nine vacant homes off S. Fayetteville Street burn. Despite lack of permit to contractor, buildings are set ablaze to make room for federal housing project. Firefighters are called to the scene twice in the afternoon, first finding five houses ablaze and later finding four more. The homes are located beyond Memorial Auditorium. [UF] (March 10, 1958)no11mar58

Gasoline truck and passenger train collide at S. Blount Street crossing. Killed instantly is the sixteen year-old driver of the truck and a ten year-old boy. Witnesses report the truck, which had just finished being loaded with "1076 gallons of inflammable fuel," pulled "into the path of the oncoming train after driving around a car stopped on the tracks." The train is traveling at an estimated 35 miles per hour and continues about 800 feet past the point of impact. The driver, "a youth of nearly 180-200 pounds," is apparently "thrown from the wreckage by the impact." His charred boy is discovered "lying near the toppled truck" when firefighters arrive. The boy is "trapped in the cab" and removed only after firefighters replace "the truck's inflammable contents with water." Two members of the Fire Department, J. A. Ennis and Ronnie Atkinson, are also injured while attempting to remove the driver's body "from the area of the fire," when compartments on the truck are blown open by "exploding fuel." Both are treated at Rex Hospital for "minor burns and bruises." The accident occurs around 5:30 p.m. The Southern Railway engineer is later charged with manslaughter, for exceeding Raleigh's ordinance requiring that trains keep within 15 mph when inside the city. [TF] (April 1, 1958)no02apr58

Apparatus delivery: 1958 American LaFrance Series 700 tractor-drawn aerial ladder, placed in service as Truck 1. First modern aerial ladder for fire department. Photos and more information. (May 30, 1958)rfd

Budget for 1958-59 includes approval for four Dispatchers, increased from two. (July 1, 1958)bd

Fire Protection: A Study of Fire Station Locations and Equipment published by City Planning Department. Recommendations include:

  • Relocating Station 2 on the west side of South Wilmington Street, south of Walnut Creek.
  • Relocating Station 4 to the east side of Downtown Boulevard, south of Wake Forest Road.
  • Construction of ten stations before 1970:
    • Station 7 - Raleigh Boulevard and Glascock Street.
    • Station 8 - Ridge Road at Churchill Road.
    • Station 9 - Six Forks Road north of Farrior Hills.
    • Station 10 - Highway 1 and the Beltline.
    • Station 11 - Highway 64 and the Beltline.
    • Station 12 - Western Boulevard and Method Road.
    • Station 13 - Western Boulevard and Ashbury Drive.
    • Station 14 - Poole Road at Worthdale subdivision.
    • Station 15 - Blue Ridge Road, south of Highway 70.
    • Station 16 - Wake Forest Road, south of Millbrook Road.
  • Add three aerial ladder trucks by 1970.
  • After relocating Station 2, convert Old Station 2 to a maintenance facility.
  • Construction of a classroom building at the training tower on South Wilmington Street.

Read the report. (August 1958)

Cattle barn at State Fair burns. Raleigh responds along with volunteer fire department. See Western Boulevard Fire Department timeline. (October 10, 1958)no11oct58

Lassiter's Mill burns. Raleigh responds along with volunteer fire departments. See Six Forks Fire Department timeline. (November 8, 1958)no09nov58


Fire department begins dispatching select volunteer fire departments in county. A county-wide two-way radio network is installed with assistance and funds from the local office of Civil Defense. rt22jul60

1959

Manmur Bowling Center at 2516 Hillsboro Street burns. Four alarms. Building consists of "a bowling alley with an adjacent barber shop; a beer parlor, the Profile; and the Manmur Shoe Shop." Damage estimates range from "several hundred thousand dollars to over a million." The loss on fire reports indicates $11,000,000 (correct?). The "fast-spreading" blaze threatens the entire block. Seven fire companies "battled the blaze, cheered on by thousands of State college students, for two hours before bringing it under control." The blaze poses a "serious threat" to the "stately West Raleigh Presbyterian Church." Nearby residents use hoses and wet down their roofs "as a precaution against flying firebrands being carried by the wind." The fire is "first discovered in the bowling center by an unidentified 'little boy' who said he smelled smoke." The manager says he "'looked under the seat next to the wall and it looked like someone had thrown a cigarette under the seat. I got a bucket of water and poured it under the seat and when I straightened up, fire was coming through the walls.'" Some 200 people are inside at the time of the fire. "All got out of the building quickly" as soon as the alarm is spread. "Within minutes after the alarm was turned in, the blaze [has] spread to the Profile Tavern, the State Beauty Shop, Manmur Shoe Shop, Carey's Trading Post, and a barber shop which [is] inside the bowling center building." The one-story brick bowling center, built around 1939, was the "first building constructed in the now highly commercial area of 2400-2500 Hillsboro Street." Fireman Lewis Choplin, a department switchboard operator, receives the alarm at 7:04 p.m., from box number "541 [or Box 15], located at the corner of Hillsboro and Horne Street. Trucks from the Central fire station, Jefferson Street, Fairview and Oberlin Road, and park Drive-Oberlin Road stations answered the alarm." They include E1, L1, R1, E9, E4, E6, T6. Chief Keeter said the fire could be termed "a four-alarm blaze." Nine fire trucks are on scene and "all of the City's 123 firemen [are] called either to the fight the fire or to standby." Chief Keeter also praises the number of volunteer department members who showed up. "'I guess there are more than 50 here.'" Chief and Mrs. Keeter are attending "a missionary convention at Smyra Baptist Church" when the fire department switchboard operator contacts "the chief by phone." The fire is also the first time the new 100-foot aerial ladder truck sees "real service" since purchased in May. Firefighter C. T. Wood is atop the aerial ladder, staying "top-side for over an hour and a half with his hose trained into the center of the gutted building." [MF] (March 4, 1959)no05mar59, rfd

Byrd's Drive Inn on Highway 401 South burns. Alarm at 12:37 a.m., by telephone. Loss $10,000. Located outside of city. [MF?] (April 14, 1959)rfd

Budget for 1959-60 includes approval for:

  • Fire Training Supervisor, previously named Drill Captain
  • Fire Radio Technician
  • Fire Alarm Technician, but no assistant position. (July 1, 1959)bd

King's Drive Inn on Highway 401 South burns. Alarm at 12:57 a.m., by telephone. Loss $7,000. Located outside of city. Squad truck responds. (July 23, 1959)rfd

Apparatus delivery: 1958 American LaFrance 900 series pumper, placed in service as Engine 9 at Station 1. Photos and more information. (August, 1959)rfdar, rfd, alf

Station 7 opens at 1300 Glascock Street. Engine 7, operating a 1953 American LaFrance pumper, is moved from Station 1. Photos and more information. (December 30, 1959)rfd


Fire department summarized in News & Observer article:

  • 1,241 alarms in 1958
  • 15 pieces of apparatus in six stations
  • Nine pumpers, valued at $20,000 each, each either 750 or 1000 GPM, each with 1,500 feet of hose
  • Two ladder trucks, valued at $40,000, including 100-foot aerial that is newest piece of equipment. Five men assigned to latter
  • One squad truck
  • Three staff cars
  • Two rescue vehicles
  • Four men assigned to each truck, plus a Captain
  • Four trucks plus a rescue unit respond to downtown business district alarms
  • Fire Chief or Assistant Chief answers all downtown alarms
  • Firefighters work 24 hours on, 24 hours off, and are subject to recall when off-duty, as recently happened during the Manmur Bowling Center fire.

Vehicle purchase: Motor vehicles for "Fire Prevention" during Fiscal Year 1959 at cost of $1943.70. cad

Local 548 of the IAFF ceases operations, when the North Carolina General Assembly outlawed the rights of firefighters and police officers to belong to unions. The organization will re-charter in 1969, after a federal court rules in 1968 that the state statute is unconstitutional. (1959)chb



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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