10/14/10 1098 W - + 6 - 7 Stations, Companies, and Other Bits of Raleigh History

For your Friday enjoyment, here are some Raleigh Fire Department history bits related to stations, staffing, companies, and even contract fire prevention. Sources are Mike's history pages, and the gray matter behind them.


Delayed Station Construction

The longest-delayed station construction project is likely the replacement of old Station 1 on West Morgan Street, which took 12 years to complete. The station was declared unsafe for occupancy in 1940, and finally vacated and demolished in 1941. (Though the tower was removed in 1938, itself declared unsafe for a number of years.) The city purchased a lot on South Dawson Street for the replacement station, while the fire companies from Station 1 relocated to Station 2 at Memorial Auditorium and old Station 2 (now Station 1) on South Salisbury Street. Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and war time restrictions commenced, including building construction. A building for the fire alarm system was built within a year on the Dawson Street site, but the replacement fire station took another decade to complete.

Also during that time frame, Station 6 opened in a rented building on Fairview Road on January 2, 1943. The city had looked at other properties in the Budleigh area, including the grounds of the nearby Country Club Apartments. FHA regulations, however, prevented the construction of a garage. Plans for a dedicated Station 6 were soon underway. If memory serves from my reading of the city minutes downtown, that project was delayed a year to two. Believe they had to re-bid the project, as no bids were received the first and maybe even second time. A dedicated Station 6 finally opened in 1949.

Delayed Building Construction

Another long-delayed facilities project was the recommendation in a 1958 fire protection report to construct a classroom building at the training tower on South Wilmington Street. The Keeter Training Center opened 24 years later in 1982. The same report recommended the relocation of Station 2, and converting the old station at Memorial Auditorium to a maintenance facility. When Station 2 was moved to Pecan Road in 1969, a dedicated shop building was also opened at the new location.

Planned Station Openings

Nearly all of the fire station locations identified in planning projects were constructed, though at times taking a decade or more to complete. One exception was the location of Old Stage Road and Highway 401, near Garner. A fire protection report of 1971 cited same as a future fire station location for "1975-beyond." The fire station locations were based on planned annexations. The city limits never expanded farther south than Highway 70 and Highway 401. However, business owners on Highway 401 south of Raleigh could contract with the city for fire protection in the 1970s. Specific details on the years such services were offered is to be determined.

Proposed Station Closures

In 1993, City Council considered a plan to consolidate two sets of two fire stations. The process would trim staffing by 24 positions, and save up to $800,000 in salary costs. The plan involved closing Station 1 and Station 3, and replacing with a single station near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Haywood Street. Station 5 and Station 6 would also be closed, and replaced with a new station near Wade Avenue and St. Mary's Street. Citizens were among the parties that protested, and the plan was eventually discarded.

Actual Station Closures

The only permanent station closure in the city's history was the relocation of Station 4 from Old Wake Forest Road to Northway Court on June 24, 1993. The company was moved to a new response area on the northern edge of the city. Their former response area was absorbed by Engine 6, Engine 9, and Engine 11. The reason for the relocation was cited as overlapping response areas.

Staffing Cuts

During the difficult economic times of the mid-Seventies, City Manager Lawrence P. Zachary announced 60 job cuts on October 5, 1976. They included nine Captain positions in the fire department. The positions were eliminated from the three service ladder truck companies, and were never restored in subsequent budget years. The service companies were led by Lieutenants until the last service company was converted to an aerial ladder company in 1989. That was Truck 15, converted from a 1971 Chevrolet service truck to a 1977 Mack aerial platform.

Company Closures

The closure of fire companies in the city's history has been exceedingly rare. Truck 12, a service ladder company, was permanently removed from service on September 21, 1988. Log books recall that the company was often or perpetually out of service for many months prior, its personnel filling in at other stations. Oral histories recall that the Truck 12 positions were ultimately used to staff Engine 20, which was placed in service on January 20, 1989. It operated a 1961 American LaFrance pumper upon the station's opening.

Second Engine at Station 1

A single engine company has been staffed at Station 1 since 1912. Upon completion of the new Station 1 on South Dawson Street, a second engine company was placed in service, Engine 9. That engine would be later named Engine 10, Engine 15, and Engine 13. The specific reason for the second company is to be determined. The specifics of the second company, such as exact date of in-service and other details, are also to be determined. Was Engine 9 a continuously serving engine company, from 1953 forward? Were there gaps in service during that decade? To be determined.

On April 1, 1960, the second engine at Station 1 was transferred to Station 8, which opened that date in a rented house on Kent Road, now named Method Road. Six men were assigned to each shift. They operated a 1958 American LaFrance pumper, and a 1960 GMC/Alexander tanker. There were two tankers placed in service that year, the second at Station 2.

The second engine at Station 1 was returned service as Engine 10 on April 21, 1960. It was removed from service again in February 1965, and remained out of service until March 1969. Looking at my note, it appears the personnel were shifted to Truck 6. That service ladder company had been out of service for an unspecified period of time. Truck 6 operated until 1979, upon which the company was moved to Station 16.

Contract Fire Protection

When was the first year that the city contracted fire protection services, for areas within the city not yet covered by a city fire station? To be determined. And who were the first contracted fire departments, anyway? Six Forks? New Hope? 

And did you know that the city offered contracted fire protection services to business owners outside the city at one time? Specifically on Highway 401 south of Raleigh, at least during the 1970s. That was probably the same period of time that city growth was predicted in that direction.

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