Morrisville Fire Department

History


 

1955-1959

Town population 221.

Fire Department

  • Organized April 1955.
  • Incorporated June 8, 1955, as Morrisville Rural Fire Company, Inc.
  • Serves communities of Morrisville, Carpenter, Upchurch, Greenlevel, and the largely rural farming areas of western Wake County. 
  • Charter members: Richard D. Knott, Hubert C. Sears Jr., Carl V. Light, Thomas A. Ferrell, and William F. Jones.
  • Initial membership of seventeen active members and one honorary member, Willie Hester.
  • Fire Chief is Richard "Donald" Knott.

Fire Station

  • First fire station is tin shed behind the Red & White store on Morrisville-Carpenter Road, owned by Ceil Sears and Bill Jones.
  • Building is just south of intersection with Highway 54, and directly across the street from the location of the later fire station.

Fire Apparatus

  • First fire truck is a military surplus "deuce and a half" oil tanker that the firefighters converted into a pumper with 750 gallon water tank. It was formerly a Korean War-era tanker.
  • It's equipped with 500 feet of 1.5 inch hose, and 400 feet of 3/4 inch hose.
  • Parrish body works charged $500 for skirting, and Neville Paint Shop charged $23 for the fire engine red paint. That was the only work not performed by department members.
  • Local blacksmith and honorary member Willie Hester did all the welding at no cost.
  • The department spent $2,500 for a truck that would have cost approximately $14,000 if purchased new.
  • They also spent $1,500 on the equipment (hose, ladders, lights, etc.).
  • Almost all of the money was contributed from local residents.

1958, fire station near completion, reports Wake County Firemen's Association minutes dated May 13, 1958

1958, Fire Chief is D. Herbert Ferrell wcfa

1960-1969

1960, town population is 222.

1960, Fire Chief is Carl L. Light.

1960, Station #1 constructed at 100 Morrisville-Carpenter Rd. Station consists of two bays. Built by members with materials donated by the community.

1960, Second fire truck added. Secondhand military surplus Dodge Power Wagon converted into a brush truck. rt27mar64

1962, H. Cecil Sears becomes Fire Chief.

1963, Green Hope Elementary School destroyed by fire. Built in 1927, the school hosted all twelve grades until 1952, when it became an elementary school. The building caught fire at 1:00 a.m. Local fire departments responded, but the building was destroyed. The cause was ruled as suspicious. Opposition to the integration of local schools was suspected as a motive. (August 15, 1963.)

1963, Plane crash at Indian Wells. The crash, near the Smith-Douglass fertilizer plant, killed the pilot.

1964, apparatus delivery: 1963 Chevrolet/Darley Champion, 750/500. First Class A pumper for department. Cost $11,000. Money raised entirely from donations and fundraisers. Placed in service the week of March 16, 1964.rt27mar64

1964, snapshot on March 27:

  • Three pieces of fire apparatus, with total capacity of transporting 2,000 gallons of water
  • Includes 1963 Chevy/Darley pumper, newly in service.
  • The new pumper increases the radius of lowered insurance rates to four miles.
  • Officers are D. H. Ferrell as Fire Chief, K. T. Upchurch as Assistant Chief, and Carl Light as President.
  • Plans underway to expand to double the size of the fire station.rt27mar64

1964, two bays and meeting room added to fire station. Plans to expand are underway as of March 27, 1964.rt27mar64

1964, Angus Barn at 9401 Glenwood Avenue burns. Fire was discovered "about 7 a.m. by a passing truck driver" who calls the Raleigh Fire Department, reports the February 8 edition of The News and Observer. Rural fire departments from "Morrisville, Six Forks, and the Fairgrounds" responded, in addition to "a truck from Raleigh." Morrisville Fire Chief Benny Ridout was the first to arrive. By the time firefighters arrived, the roof had collapsed. By 8 a.m. "only the charred and cracked walls" stood above a "pile of cinders and twisted metal." Damaged was estimated at $250,000. (February 7, 1964) no

1970-1979

1970, town population is 209.

1970, apparatus delivery: Chevy tanker purchased, either 1969 or 1970 model year.

1975, Station #2 completed at 6804 Carpenter-Fire Station Road (current street name and number). Members of both the Morrisville and Carpenter communities participated in the project. Nearly all of the materials were donated by the residents.

1975, fire district increased from ten square miles to approximately twenty-five square miles.

1975, apparatus deliveries:

  • 1975 Ford/Darley Champion pumper-tanker, 750/750
  • Chevy 1200 gallon tanker, either 1969 or 1970 model year
  • brush truck, either 1975 Dodge Power Wagon or 1972 Ford.

1976, six female firefighter join: Johnie Faye Howard, Gayle Mills, Cathie Pendergraft, Anne Knott, Andrea Young, and Trudy Harris. They are the first female firefighters in Wake County.

1976, Ladies Auxiliary "Firepals" is organized.

1980-1989

1980, town population is 251.

1980, apparatus delivery: 1980 _____/Darley purchased to replace 1963 pumper.

1984, fire department obtains ISO Class 6 rating.

1984, electrical fire at airport control tower. Morrisville FD responds with other departments. Air traffic was impacted for eight hours.

1984, station renovations and additions: three bays and a new roof were added to Station #1. The direction of the bays was also changed, to face north instead of east.

1984-85, the H. C. "Cecil" Sears Distinguished Service Award is created, to recognize members for their hard work.

1985, apparatus accident: Chevy brush truck struck by a train, while crews battled a grass fire along the tracks. None of the five firefighters are injured. The truck is pushed at least 40 feet down the tracks. The collision happened about 3:30 p.m. (August 14, 1985)

1985 (?), apparatus delivery: 1985 Grumman/KME AerialCat rear-mounted aerial platform, 1500/200/95-foot.

1987, apparatus deliveries: two 1987 Duplex/E-One pumper-tankers, 1500/1000.

1988, first part-time firefighters hired. Six are hired, two per shift, to assist the volunteers in answering calls. The town pays for 50% of their salaries.

1988, first newsletter "Smoke Signals" developed by C. J. King.

1989, apparatus deliveries: two 1989 Ford C8000/E-One pumper-tankers, 1500/1000.

1990-1999

1990, town population is 1,022.

1991, Tony Chiotakis becomes first full-time Fire Chief. He's hired as a career employee of the town.

1991, paid staff increased to seven weekday part-time firefighters. With the hiring of the Fire Chief, the part-time firefighters become town employees. The rural department pays 50% of their salaries.

1992, Station #1 completely renovated. The building was named in honor of charter member and former Fire Chief H. C. Cecil Sears.

1994, American Eagle commuter plane crashes in Morrisville at night, approximately five miles short of runway. Fifteen of eighteen people aboard were killed. The crash snapped the fuselage in half and scattered wreckage across 500 yards of rugged woods. Responders took tractors and off-road vehicles to reach crash site off Davis Drive. Read narrative in RDU history.

1995, radio system purchased, 800 mhz.

1994, rural fire department merges with the town in December, and a complete municipal fire department is created.

1995, three full-time firefighters hired to supplement thirty part-time paid members and twenty-five volunteers.

1997, apparatus delivery: 1997 Simon-Duplex/Salisbury heavy rescue.

1999, all part-time positions upgraded to full-time career positions. The shift personnel were:

  • A-Shift Capt. Paul Felts, Eng. Cliff Cates, Ins/FF David Auchmoody, FF Chris Messinger, FF Bob Thomas, FF Tom Zumbado
  • B-Shift Capt. John Dodson, Eng. Charles Ivey, Ins/FF Ronald Klus, FF Kirk Miller, FF Stephen Rodr, FF Terry Chalk
  • C-Shift Capt. James Kay, Eng. David Rudisill, Ins/FF Scott Harris, FF Scott Criddle, FF Jerry Ayscue, FF Tom Dooley.

1999, third station completed on 10632 Chapel Hill Road. Designated Station 2. The 8,500 square-foot facility includes a 10,000 gallon underground cistern (drafting pit) for fire pump service testing. Roof and forcible entry props are later built on the grounds.

1999, full-time staffing started at both Station 1 and Station 2.

1999, apparatus note: 1985 Grumman/KME AerialCat is refurbished by KME.

2000-2009

2000, population of town is 5,208.

2000, new patch designed by Cliff Cates and David Health.

2002, apparatus deliveries: two American LaFrance Eagle pumpers, 1500/750. (June 2002)

2003, new town hall opens on Town Hall Drive. Fire Administration and Fire prevention later relocates to the building from Station 1.

2003, Mike Chambers becomes Fire Chief.

2003, full-time firefighters hired to provide 24/7 staffing at Station 3.

2003-2004, circa, apparatus changes:

  • 1991 KME/Salisbury rescue sold to town of Clayton.

Department adds two rescue units as replacements:

  • 1989 Simon-Duplex/Saulsbury/KME, originally from Atlantic H&L Co. 1 in Port Washington, NY
  • 2000 Ford F-550 light rescue from Clayton Area Rescue Squad.mjl-blog

2005, Todd Wright becomes Fire Chief.

2005, department becomes member of NC SafeKids. All three fire stations are designated as permanent car seat checking stations.

2006 (?), apparatus deliveries: two 2006 KME Predator pumpers.

2006, department obtains ISO Class 3/9S rating.

2006, department begins First Responder program, providing BLS level of car.

2006, department adds CERT team.

2006, honor guard formed.

2006, department joins NC USAR Task Fork 4, a Type III team that consisted of members from  Apex, Mooresville, and Troutman fire departments.

2006, Fire Prevention Division is restructured.

2006, Station 3 relocated next door to new Cary Station 7, a shared facility. Old station 3 is sold and later opens as "Firehouse Auto Repair."

2007 (?), apparatus delivery: 2007 Ford F-550/Seagrave brush truck.

2007, first firefighters sent to a fire academy. Nathan Lozinsky, Phillip Farland and James Waddell (Valedictorian) attend Durham Fire Department fire academy.

2007, First Responder program upgraded to EMT level of care.

2008, first retirement, Fire Marshal Gayle Mills.

2008, firefighters deployed to Hyde County, to assist with fighting wildland fires.

2008, apparatus changes:

  • Ladder 2 sold in/around January. Department uses 1993 E-One ladder from Parkwood until new platform arrives.lw
  • 2008 KME Predator AerialCat rear-mounted aerial platform, 1500/300/102-feet. Delivered February 25, 2008. Placed in service in May.lw

2009, apparatus delivery: 2009 Pierce Contender pumper-tanker, 1500/100/40. New Pumper 3. Delivered June 2. Dedicated on July 4, 2009.lw

2009, Fire Explorer Post 263 organized.

2010-present

2010, town population is 18,576.

2011, department receives Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) Accredited Agency status. One of only eleven accredited fire departments in the the state. The process is a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model that enables organizations to examine past, future and current service levels and international performance and compare to industry best practices. The process leads to improve service delivery.

2012, Station 1 relocates to Town Hall Drive. The $3 million, 13,000 square-foot facility first houses Ladder 1, Rescue 1, reserve Engine 1, Utility 20, and the technical rescue trailer. Dedicated February 28, 2012.

2013, NC USAR Task Force 4 is disbanded by the state, along with other teams.

2013, apparatus delivery: 2013 Spartan/Rescue 1 heavy-duty walk-around rescue. Replaces 1989 Simon-Duplex/Salisbury/KME rescue. Delivered June 6, 2013.mjl-blog

2014, apparatus delivery: 2014 Smeal Spartan rear-mounted aerial ladder, 1500/500/20/105-feet. Delivered June 4, 2014. Placed in service in July.lw

2015, department celebrates sixty years of service. On June 6, 2015, a celebration was held at Station 1. The event opened with the Honor Guard leading an apparatus parade down Town Hall Drive. Visiting fire departments included Cary, Raleigh, Durham Highway, and even Warrenton. This was followed by an open house. The anniversary activities also included a banquet for past and present members.

More History

Morrisville Brush Truck Struck by Train, 1985

February 8, 2015 - Source

On August 14, 1985, this Chevrolet brush truck (model and year?) was struck a train... and survived. TheCary News on August 18 reported the story in an article written by George Jeter.

Happened on a Wednesday afternoon. Crews were fighting a "more or less routine" woods fire call along the tracks between the "crossings at Secondary Road 3014 and the Huntington development project near Morrisville." Then they heard the whistle of Norfolk Southern Engine 2795.

Fireman Robert Beard said they'd "just got the hose off" the truck, when they heard the train "rounding a bend to the west." He worried the truck might derail the train. Another firefighter said "I didn't even think about the truck - I saw that train and I was gone."

Some five volunteer firemen were "on or around the truck" when the whistle was heard. They "lept and ran from the truck," which had been driven down the tracks, to reach "flames along the steep banks of the railroad embankment."

The operator of the freight train tried to stop. Though slowed, the engine struck the truck at about twenty-five miles per hour. The fire engine was pushed at least forty feet down the track before coming to a stop. The collision happened about 3:30 p.m.

No one was injured in the impact, though at least one firefighter was "cut by brambles" as they climbed the banks of the easement.

Crews resumed firefighting using "backpack water sprayers". One "from from the YRAC Rural Fire Department" also arrived to help. Once the fire was extinguished, the damaged brush truck was moved "off the tracks by hand" to be towed out of the "narrow easement land."

--

Morrisville Fire Engine Struck on Interstate 40

June 13, 2009 - Source

The News & Observer reports that a Morrisville fire engine was struck this morning on Interstate 40. They were east of Airport Boulevard and on scene at a vehicle fire, when a car carrying two college students collided with the apparatus about 4:30 a.m. Both occupants were transported to Duke. No firefighters were injured. And, as it happens, another accident occurred, while the fire truck/car collision was being investigated. 

The story is also being reported by WRAL, and includes the below image. They report that the car was travelling at full speed and failed to brake. Their car was totalled, and the apparatus received only minor damage. Crews closed all but one lane of the roadway during the incident. Read the WRAL story.

The vehicle fire was dispatched at 3:31 a.m. The vehicle accident at 4:17 a.m. Units at the accident included Morrisville E1, R2, C3, C1, EMS 54, EMS 4, District 5.


Fire Chiefs

See Wake County Fire Chiefs (pdf).

Vehicles

See Wake County apparatus register (pdf).

Photos

Raleigh Fire Museum photo albums.

Sources

Unless otherwise noted, source is Morrisville Fire/Rescue History, published by the fire department in 2015. The authors were firefighters Brian Oliver and Matthew LaPlaca.

Last updated: November 30, 2016


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Copyright 2016 by Michael J. Legeros