01/14/13 174 W, 1 I - + 9 - 6 Before They Wore Helmets

On June 30, 1950, budget money was approved for Raleigh firefighters to receive their first helmets. Before then, dress caps were worn while fighting fires, as shown in this photo from November 22, 1948, when city firemen assisted Angier, Apex, Dunn, Fuquay Springs, and Fort Bragg fire departments at a warehouse fire in Varina. Now that's old school mutual aid there! Here's a prior posting about the evolution of the Raleigh fire helmet. And here's another posting on that subject.

It's worth noting that the Raleigh Fire Department during that decade, and particularly during the war, was considerably understaffed. Documents from that period talk about the customary practice of relying on citizens to help move or man hose lines at major fires in downtown Raleigh. Crazy? Smart? Sounds like there were always dozens of people offering help, or climbing in and helping, at major fires in the city. City officials would certainly come to expect such help and probably (under)allocate resources accordingly. Quite the trap. Click to enlarge:

News & Observer photo

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