04/23/12 140 W, 5 I - + 5 - 9 UPDATED: New Old Photos From The Mangel Fire, July 1981

The Raleigh Fire Museum has posted two sets of photos from the Mangel's Building fire on Fayetteville Street Mall on July 7, 1981. The photos are from veteran hobby photog Robert L. Ott Sr. and retired CCBI photographer Gary Knight. Their photos, other photos, and other information (including a run card) are linked from this new historical incident summary page

1981-07-07-mangel-ott-12 1981-07-07-mangel-ott-18-close
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Robert Ott (top) and Gary Knight (bottom) photos

The Mangel's Building was built between 1890 and 1900. How many really old buildings remain on Fayetteville Street? Based on tax records, here's a document with diagrams and ages (PDF). (That document was created last year. Please advise corrections!) Looks like a number of structures dating to the 1900s, though balanced with numerous more modern buildings.

Bill, thanks for this fantastic contribution to RFD’s history!
A.C. Rich - 04/22/12 - 21:06

For your reading (and contextual pleasure), here are the first couple pages of a monograph-in-progress, about the events that day. It’ll get finished one of these years:

Memories of the Mangel Building

Setting the Stage

Let’s travel back in time to the early Eighties, to the second year of that decade. The summer of 1981. Ronald Reagan is President, and has survived an assassination attempt. Pope John Paul II is also recovering from being shot. The Oakland Raiders are the year’s Super Bowl champs. Major League Baseball has gone on strike. The Centers for Disease Control have identified the first recognized cases of an acquired immunity deficiency disease.

The City of Raleigh is less than half its present size at 56.63 square miles. The population is 149,771, making Raleigh the third largest city in the state. G. Smeades York is serving his second term as Mayor. The Fayetteville Street pedestrian mall has been completed. The Raleigh Civic Center is four years old. The merged Raleigh and Wake County school system is five years old.

The Raleigh Fire Department has 15 fire stations, with 16 engine companies, three aerial ladders, three service ladders, two rescue units, and three District Chiefs. They’ll answer 5,214 calls in 1981. This is the second year of the city-wide first responder program. They have 325 authorized positions, and a budget of 45.6 million. The Fire Chief is Rufus Keith. The Assistant Chiefs are C. T. May and Norman Walker.

Smoke Investigation

On Tuesday July 7, 1981, about 8:45 a.m., the attendant in a parking lot on South Salisbury Street noticed smoke coming from a window on the second floor of the Mangel Building. He went inside into building, into the Corkscrew Restaurant, and informed the owner of what he saw. The owner called the fire department. At 8:50 a.m., Engine 1, Engine 3, and Truck 1 were dispatched to a smoke investigation.

The three-story, brick and wood Mangel Building was located at 124 Fayetteville Street Mall, in the middle of the block bound by Morgan, Salisbury, and Hargett streets. It faced both Fayetteville and Salisbury streets, and was divided into two main businesses and ten smaller ones.

It adjoined a second building on the north side and a small parking lot on the south side. Additional buildings were located on the block, south of the parking lot. The Mangel Building was built between 1890 and 1900, had 24,940 square-feet, and lacked a sprinkler system.

The first fire apparatus arrived at 8:54 a.m. and saw nothing but thick black smoke. Within minutes, a second alarm was dispatched. Engine 2, Engine 5, Truck 5, Truck 7, and Rescue 12 were sent at 9:04 a.m. They were dispatched to 100 South Salisbury Street, likely a staging location. Second-alarm companies began arriving by 9:13 a.m.

The third alarm was dispatched at 10:44 a.m., with Engine 13, Engine 11, Engine 9, Engine 6, and Truck 16. Additional units, perhaps a fourth alarm, added Engine 10, Engine 7, Engine 8, and Engine 3. They were dispatched to Fayetteville and Morgan streets, likely a staging location.

Additional units engine and truck companies were requested through the day and evening, at 2:33 p.m. (Truck 1, Engine 15 to Wilmington and Hargett streets), 5:18 p.m. (Engine 7, Engine 14), 8:38 p.m. (Engine 14, Engine 9), and 12:43 am. (Engine 10).

Fighting the Fire

Crews had difficulty controlling the fire, as the building was heavily partitioned. “It was like fighting five separate fires at once” said District Chief L. V. Chopin. The structure had numerous false walls and false ceilings added as the result of renovation work over the years. “You name it, they had done it in there,” said Fire Chief Rufus Keith. “We couldn’t find [the fire]. We never really found [it].”

The intensity grew as each hour passed. The owner of the Bookmark, another store on the block, was planning to open at 10:00 a.m. But, he recalled, the building next door was blazing. “But it seemed to get worse and worse,” he recalled. “The more firemen that came, the worse the fire got.” By 11:00 a.m., the store owner was forced to abandon his store, and taking memorabilia and some books with him.
Black smoke covered the Fayetteville Street Mall like a blanket, and shoppers found fresh air inside stores.

Three pieces of aerial apparatus were utilized, directing streams onto the roof and into the second floor. On Salisbury Street, two aerials operated: Truck 1 with a 1977 Mack/Baker 85-foot aerial platform, and Truck 16 with a 1961 American LaFrance 100-foot aerial ladder. On the Fayetteville Street Mall, truck 5 was using a 1979 Mack/1958 American LaFrance 100-foot aerial ladder.

See also this diagram of the building: http://www.legeros.com/ralwake/photos/we..
Legeros - 04/22/12 - 22:18

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