02/15/13 599 W, 1 I - + 3 - 3 My First Engine

Twenty-four years ago today, Yours Truly reported for duty at the Keeter Training Center. Fourteen weeks later, the nineteen members of later-named Recruit Academy 13 began being assigned on shift. My first tour of duty lasted six months on "B" shift at Station 19. That was a year-old station in a shiny new section of town called Mini City. The call volume was nil, however. Three calls in a cycle would be considered busy. (New Hope was way busier, as there was plenty of county land around. The station itself wasn't inside the city!) Now it's one of the busiest houses, and protects a considerably demographically different/diverse area!

With a crew of Driver (and Acting Captain) Paul Averette, First Class FF Billy Neal Perry, and private James Reeves, we answered what calls we had on a 1968 American LaFrance pumper. Not quite open-cab. Had a prefab roof but no windows for the driver and officer. They'd affix a pair of clear-plastic panes in rain or cold weather. Held in place with Velcro, as memory services. I rode in the back. No safety bar. No SCBA. The air packs were kept in boxes. Hand lines came off the back. Speedlays just getting introduced. Booster reel on the tailboard was hand-cranked.

Didn't answer a single working fire during that six-month period. (Was floating at Station 9 before next permanent assignment, before I had my first fire.) We tried to respond to a working fire once. The engine didn't crank. We listened in dismay as Engine 11 and Engine 15 and others answered the call that was but a half-mile away. That same cycle as the no-crank incident, we also experienced (b.) the battery charger inadvertently flattened by our truck tires and (c.) the engine compartment catching fire while responding to a call. (We came to a stop on Spring Forest Road just east of Capital Boulevard, and grabbed the extinguishers.)

No "Q" on that one. No air horn. We'd cross Capital Boulevard-- a busy roadway even back then-- utilizing a triple threat: the siren-light on the nose wailing as best it could, the weak horn beeping, and the officer ringing the hell out of the bumper bell. Daresay the bell was the loudest warning device on that truck. (The lightbar was installed while I was there, if memory serves. Had but a single beacon before!)

With nary any calls, station life was slow. This was pre-computer, pre-Internet. The available learning materials and media consisted of these things called books, and good ol' Channel 59. The latter was a cable-access channel used for broadcasting training programs to fire stations. It also served as an electronic bulletin board. (For a while, it even featured one-paragraph movies reviews of mine, sent to "Tramp" Dunn, to post. That's back when I was a movie nut. Now I am just a nut.) The channel was used well into the 1990s. It was first distance-learned technology in the Raleigh Fire Department.

Good times.

Was transferred to Station 15, then Station 5 on "A" shift. Then left the department for greener pastures in 1991. (Short stint at the ECC, then out of public safety altogether.) Returned a decade later with an interest in the department's past, and with a camera in tow. Civilian enthusiast. The rest is, as the say, is history. The department in 1989 answered 9,409 calls and protected 201,000 residents in 87 square miles. Nineteen fire stations, twenty engines, four ladders, one service ladder, two rescues, and three district chiefs. Sherman Pickard was the Chief, and oversaw 355 authorized positions. The budget was $11.6M. Click to enlarge:

Man… you’re OLD!!
A.C. Rich - 02/15/13 - 18:11

A.C…. Those who live in glass houses should NOT throw stones!!! LOL
Russell - 02/17/13 - 11:31

Yes! I agree!! I resemble that!!
A.C. Rich - 02/17/13 - 12:03

Remember personal info?

/ Textile

Comment moderation is enabled on this site. This means that your comment will not be visible on this site until it has been approved by an editor.

To prevent spam we require you to answer this silly question

  (Register your username / Log in)

Hide email:

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.