06/15/12 268 W, 1 I - + 6 - 4 Facts About Raleigh's Old Steamer

Here's a bit of background about Raleigh's old steamer, which will be appearing in tomorrow's Raleigh Fire Department centennial celebration events in downtown Raleigh. We'll call this thing a fact sheet.

   1905 American LaFrance
Metropolitan Steam Engine

So you ask, what, that linked history page about the steamer(s) isn’t enough? You have to create a second, smaller version? Well, yes. Here’s a not-so-little known fact about people and reading. Less is more. Way less is way better. These bullet points, with much shorter sentences, is probably twice as easy to consume as the linked history page.

(Why isn’t said history page written in this style? Well, longer sentences and longer paragraphs have their place. Plus, the history page is probably for more… dedicated readers. This “fact sheet” is designer for a wider audience, and for more readily grabbing attention.)

Now that everyone is reading and writing on a regular basis— through this newfangled thing call e-mail— we’ve all discovered a couple important things about people and words. When it comes to certain types of text presentation (web pages, e-mail), people do a lot of skimming. Or ignore text outright. Heck, we see this in ourselves. How many times have you thought “wait, I remember seeing that e-mail, but I think I just skimmed over what was written.”
Legeros - 06/15/12 - 10:47

How many fires did the 1905 steamer fight in the city? Perhaps a couple dozen or even fewer. There were comparably few fire calls in those days. From March 1, 1903 to Feb 29, 1904, for example, there were 59 alarms for that fiscal year. Only 25 of those fires saw hose streams in service.

Two years later, from March 1, 1905 to February 28, 1908, there were 106 alarms. (Why did they double? No idea.) The companies that responded are not noted, and only about 16 of the fires are listed as having monetary damage.

Of those, only a handful had significant monetary damage. My guess, the steamer probably pumped a half-dozen times that year.

Here are some fires that saw the 1905 steamer in action, or poised for action:

Feb. 25, 1908 – Cary’s largest building – Grist mill and office building. Raleigh Fire Department requested, with steamer and hose sent on special train. By the time it arrivals, the spread of the fire to other buildings is controlled, and the steamer is not removed from the rail car. Loss $11,475.

Apr. 12, 109 – Two homes on West Jones Street – Low water pressure is a problem, and the steamer soon responds. Both buildings destroyed. Loss about $6,000.

Apr. 30, 1908 – W. H. King Drug Company at Martin and Wilmington streets – Four streams used, including one from the steamer. Loss over $30,000.

Apr. 24, 1913 – News & Observer building on Martin Street – Firefighter hampered by water main break. Steamer directed to the location of an old underground cistern, and continues fighting fire. Building destroyed. Loss over $75,000.

Mar. 3, 1914 – Jenkins Memorial Chapel in the Glenwood and Brooklyn “suburbs” – Hose companies have two streams and insufficient pressure. Steamer is summoned, to be towed by motor car. The vehicle’s driving chain breaks, and two horses must be found. By the time of the steamer’s arrival, the church is nearly entirely destroyed.

Mar. 24, 1914 – Textile building at A&M College – Steamer and hose wagons respond to the college that is located outside the city, assist students and faculty using hose streams from campus hydrant system. Most of building destroyed. Loss $80,000.
Legeros - 06/15/12 - 13:56

Next question, so hydrant pressure works for those decades, from 1887 past 1912. When did they start connecting their hoses to the pumpers? When did they stop using hydrant-pressure for hose lines? That’s a good question. To be answered some time. Certainly by 1950. Have film footage showing training on pumping by that time.
Legeros - 06/15/12 - 14:04

How volunteer companies were operating in the city prior to the start of the paid department? Also what present day companies can trace their roots back to those volunteer companies ie the Capital Hose Company and the Mahier Steam Company?
Mike - 06/16/12 - 16:38

Mike, there were five volunteer companies operating when the paid department started. Engine 1, Engine 2, and Engine 3 can trace their roots to three of the companies, or at least with regard to their equipment, apparatus, and facilities. This chart details that lineage: http://legeros.com/ralwake/raleigh/histo..
Legeros - 06/16/12 - 18:13

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