01/18/14 312 W, 2 I - + 3 - 2 Chapel Hill Fire Apparatus in 1953

Here's a nifty historical image from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wilson Library, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, from the Roland Giduz Photographic Collection. Here's the record page for the image, which shows the Chapel Hill Fire Department on September 17, 1953. The location's a mystery, unless it's the rear of the old town hall and fire station at 100 W. Rosemary Street.1 The apparatus from left to right are a 1921 American LaFrance Type 75 Triple Combination (#3600, shipped 9/24/21), a 1944 Ford/American LaFrance (#F-1994, shipped 2/25/44), and a 1953 American LaFrance 700 Series (#L-4752, shipped 4/5/53).

As described in a 1949 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, the fire department that year was volunteer with one Chief, one Assistant Chief, and ninteen men. Two were on duty "night and day" and one was paid. They had one station, with "one American-LaFrance triple combination truck equipped with 750 GPM pump, one 110 gallon booster tank, 1,200-feet 2 1/2-inch hose, 200-feet 3/4-inch hose, hook and ladders, and one Ford truck equipped with 500 GPM pump, 200 gallon booster tank, 1,000-feet 2 1/2-inch hose, 150-feet 1 1/2-inch hose, and 200-feet 3/4-inch hose."

The Gamewell fire alarm system had two boxes, with most of the town reporting fires by telephone. The alarm was sounded by an electric horn at rear of the fire station, which summoned the firemen and designated the location. The town was equipped with seventy-eight hydrants, which supplied a "domestic pressure" of 60 pounds and a "fire pressure" of 100 pounds. Click once or twice to enlarge:

Courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wilson Library,
North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives

1Evening update, the building indeed appears to be the old town hall on Rosemary Street. This appears to be the right side of the building, as facing from Columbia Street, which apparently had an extension added in later years or decades. Perhaps a stairwell added?

Mike, if I am not mistaken, the 1921 Type 75 LaFrance was sold at surplus and is the engine that Col. Robert L. Biggs (USAF, Ret.) owned until his untimely death in 2007. I seem to recall Bob telling me there were some hard feelings with him buying the truck, which was advertised as not in running condition, yet within a couple of hours work on the Schebler carb and the “jugs”, the truck was running and if I am not mistaken, he drove it back to Raleigh. I remember this story because Bob refused after that to put Chapel Hill Fire Department on the hood, instead he put C.H.F.D. on it when it was repainted during the restoration. I believe the truck in this picture has steel wheels on it as well and Bob changed them back to the original wood wheels which he obtained from Fayetteville in an exchange for helping Lt. Jackie Lee (also retired Chief of the Wade, NC fire department) with the restoration of the City’s Type 75 LaFrance. When Bob was alive, the truck was stored in a basement garage at the home of retired Raleigh Firefighter Mike Murray, although I think since Bob’s passing, the truck has been owned and maintained by Raleigh Fire Captain Gary Amato. Bob, for those that knew him, was simply a master with the LaFrance’s of this era. On another note, I also seem to think that Bob was one of the first members of the Raleigh Rescue Squad, discussed in the EMS related article. He was one of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure to have known and there is not a week that goes by that I don’t think of him or use some knowledge that he imparted on me. He is sorely missed.
Mike Hodgson - 01/18/14 - 21:06

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