06/29/14 5737 W - + 11 - 4 Fayetteville Fire Department History

How about a little Fayetteville fire history? Here's a collection of chronological and historical errata, drawn initially from signs displayed at the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum annex. That's where the 1885 Silsby steam engine is displayed, along with other firefighting memorabilia. Important note, the annex is NOT open on Saturday, unlike the rest of the museum. See photos of Fayetteville's 1882 Silsby steamer at the museum.

Part I - The Department, The Steamer, The Firemen, The Fire Chief

These are a combination of quoted text from transportation museum [TM] signage and notes by Mike Legeros [ML]. Plus information from Sanborn Maps [SM].

Fayetteville Fire Department - Early History

"The Fayetteville Fire Department is one of the oldest in the state, tracing its history back to 1791, when it was charted by the North Carolina Legislature. The newly created Fayetteville Fire Company had a "pumping engine" and was authorized to blow-up structures in the path of fires. A year after its creation[,] a fire occurred in Fayetteville that resulted in the loss of 40 structures and at least one life. Fayetteville's Fire Company received praise for their valiant efforts. Throughout the years Town Commissioners would enact ordinances aimed at fire prevention measures or organizational improvements. The Magistrate of Police (Mayor) and Commissioners had the authority to appoint a Chief Fire Warden (Fire Chief) and Assistant Fire Wardens. Engine Companies appointed their own officers and established their own rules and regulations, provided they were governed at all fires by the Fire Warden." [TM]

"The Fayetteville Fire Department was comprised of an all volunteer force, and membership was considered an honor. Fayetteville was served by African American fire companies which also shared a long and distinguished history, dating prior to the Civil War. On a windy, dry day in May 1831, a fire originated at the northwest corner of Market Square, which spread rapidly in all directions, raging with unabated fury for about 6 hours. Firefighters blew-up houses and buildings in the path of the fire and eventual deprived the fire of food for its raging appetite. Over 600 structures were lost, and [it] remains Fayetteville's worst fire. However, over the years many other disastrous fires have occurred and each were fought with courage and determination." [TM]

he first water works, including fire hydrants, was installed in 1820. After the 1831 fire, a hand engine from Boston was acquired. Named the Yankee, it was delivered by boat in 1832. Following the Civil War, two hand engine companies protected the town along with a hook and ladder company and bucket brigade. [ML]

"The source of water for fighting fires came from Fountain Head spring, which pumped water through pine logs from the foot of Haymount Hill to the town below. Several cisterns, used to [by] pump[s] for fire fighter were kept full of water and were located along the main streets. The early fire companies were equipped with lever, hand-operated fire engines and used leather hoses which were copper riveted and glued together. During the post Civil War years, Fayetteville's Fire Companies wore a uniform that consisted of red shirts. The fire department was again reorganized in the 1880s, under the leadership of James Dobbin McNeill, who served as Fire Chief for about 40 years. In 1893 the Fayetteville waterworks was completed and a hydrant system installed." [TM]

In 1882, Capt. James D. McNeill was elected as the first Fire Chief. In 1883, African-Americans established and staffed two engine companies. In 1884, the department was reorganized. The Silsby steamer and 1,500 feet of new hose was placed in service. It was operated by the Chicora Steam Fire Engine Company. Sanborn Maps dated March 1885 list the fire apparatus as consisting of two hand engines and a one-story engine house at 500 Gillespie Street. [ML]

In January 1891, the department was "partly paid" with about 60 men, one new Silsby No. 5 steam fire engine, one hand engine, two hose carts, and about 1,500 feet of hose in good condition. [SM]

In 1893, a new water system was installed with hydrants capable of supplying hose streams. Two hose wagon companies were placed in service. [ML]

In January 1896, the fire department was located in a two-story building at 502 Green Street. There were 30 men including the Chief. They were paid a dollar for each alarm answered. Apparatus was the Silsby steamer and three hand reels. Their equipment 1500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose in "good order", 400 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose in reserve, "shut off" nozzles and Siamese couplings. There were 51 fire hydrants. The fire alarm was by bell. [SM]

Fayetteville Fire Department - Early Twentieth Century

In January 1901, the details of the fire department were unchanged, though the number of hydrants had increased to 54. [ML]

By April 1908, the fire department was located in a two-story combination fire and police station at 123 Gillespie Street. There were 25 volunteers including the Chief, plus two permanent drivers. Apparatus was the Silsby steamer, with two one-horse hose wagons each equipped with 500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Plus three hand reels were in reserve. There were two permanent horses. The fire alarm was a bell in the town square. Each fireman also had a telephone alarm at home. Two drivers slept in the steamer house. [SM]

By January 1914, the fire department had 24 men including a Chief and assistant, plus "twelve colored men" for a hook and ladder company. One driver and one chauffeur were fully paid. One permanent horse, and two horses for the hook and ladder truck that were also used for the street sprinkler. Apparatus was Seagrave combination chemical hose truck, the Silsby steam engine, the pair of one-horse hose wagons, the hook and ladder wagon, and three hose reels located at the Gillespie Street fire station (now also City Hall), on Davis Alley in Haymount, and on Persons [Street?] in Campbellton. [SM]

"Fayetteville's first motorized fire engine was a Seagrave which was purchased around 1913, but proved to be unreliable. In the 1920s, Fayetteville purchased two [American] LaFrance fire engine, which were very reliable. These new engines marked the demise of the fire horses racing through the city streets pulling the old Silsby Steamer. Into the 1920s, when a fire alarm sounded, the two motorized engines would circle the Market House picking up volunteer firemen. One of the engines would then go directly to the fire, while the other would stop along the way to pick up additional volunteer firemen who happened to flag it down." [TM]

The Seagrave was traded in 1917 for an ALF pumper of that model year. Two more triple combinations were delivered in 1920 and 1923:

By March 1923, the department had thirty volunteers, one Assistant Chief party paid, and a Chief, two Drivers, and one Chemical Man fully paid. Apparatus was an ALF triple combination (750/40), a Seagrave combination hose truck (40 gallon chemical tank), and the Silsby steamer in reserve. Plus a pending ALF triple combination (750/40) to arrive by May 1. Fire alarm was by telephone and bell at the market house. Siren to be installed by May 1. Fire hydrants totaled 151 double and triple hydrants. Another 87 new triple hydrants were pending. [SM]

By June 1930, the department had 24 men, including a partly paid Chief and two paid drivers. One driver was on duty at all times. One fire station at City Hall on Gillespie Street. Apparatus was a Seagrave triple combination (750/40) and two ALF triple combinations (750/40). Department fully motorized. Alarm reported by telephone to fire department, which activated siren. Fire Chief also called by telephone at night. No fire alarm boxes. Hydrants totaled 182. [SM]

"By 1945, the city only employed five full-time fire department personnel; all others remained volunteer. In 1947, the Fayetteville Fire Department became an all-paid department with firefighters being placed under the Civil Service Commission. Between fighting fires, handling rescue calls, and other duties, firemen often  find themselves in dangerous situations. Through the years, the Fayetteville Fire Department has maintained a solid reputation of dedicated service to the community." [TM]

Other notes, as appeared as captions for photos in the museum:

Fayetteville Fire Department - Later Twentieth Century

During the 1960s and 1970s, three more fire stations were opened: Station 4 at 406 Stamper Road in 1960, Station 5 at 3296 Village Drive in 1962, and Station 6 at 4439 Cliffdale Road in 1976. [ML]

In the early 1970s, the fire department starting running first responder units. They were originally named Mobile 8 and Mobile 9 at Stations 1 and 4, respectively. Their designation was changed to Fire Medic and were housed at Stations 1, 3, 4, 5. Their designation was then changed to Squads, and the units were finally eliminated, with all engines answering EMS calls. The designation Squad has since returned, and there are units with that designation at Stations 1, 3, 5, 9. [OH]

In the late 1970s, the city of Fayetteville had a combined fire and police program. There was one vehicle, a four-door light truck with a high utility body and a small pump and booster line. It was painted half red (top) and half blue (bottom), and had both red lights and blue lights. The unit was placed on patrol, like a police car. There was not, however, a city-wide public safety program. [ML]

The Fayetteville Fire Department added an articulating platform with the delivery of an 1980 Oshkosh/Pierce 85-foot Snorkel. Other apparatus deliveries during the recent decades included four ALF pumpers in the 1960s and 1970s, both a Ward LaFrance and Mack pumper in the 1970s, and an ALF aerial ladder in 1965.

In June 1998, the Bonnie Doone Fire Department disbanded after the city absorbed more than eighty percent of its district. The department disbanded and its assets were transferred to the Fayetteville Fire Department, which included four engines, a 1993 Pierce 100-foot aerial platform quint, one rescue, and one air truck. Their station at 5091 Sante Fe Drive became city Station 9. Around this time or this decade, the Fayetteville airport fire department either merged or had its assets transferred to the city fire department. The airport station became Station 10. [ML]

Around 2003, the city annexed area protected by the original LaFayette Village FD station at 307 Hope Mills Road. The engine house was acquired by the city and became Station 12. On July 8, 2004, the city annexed the remaining area of the LaFayette Village FD. The department merged with FFD and became Station 17 at 6701 Bailey Lake Road. The department's assets were transferred to the city, including most of their paid staff. LVFD had eleven full-time employees. Also on July 8, 2004, the Lake Rim FD merged with FFD and became Station 17 at 7690 Raeford Road. LRFD had thirteen full-time employees. [ML]

On April 4, 2008, Station 15 opened at 8434 Cliffdale Road. It replaced a temporary facility on Buhmann Drive. Construction of the $2.6M, 10,000 square-foot fire station took approximately fourteen months. [ML]

On August 14, 2009, a temporary Station 19 opened at 522 Andrews Road, on the property of Howard Hall Elementary School. The facility consisted of a modular open with a separate garage building for Engine 19, a 1996 Pierce pumper. On March 29, 2012, the permanent Station 19 opened at 3841 Walsh Parkway. [ML]

Silsby Steam Fire Engine

"This engine was built by the Silsby Manufacturing Company in Seneca Falls, New York. According [to] the Silsby Builders list, this engine was built for the Fayetteville Fire Department in 1882 and its assigned unit [or serial] number was 834. It was a 5th size engine and measures 11' 4" in length with a height of 8' 4", width is 5' 2" and weight is 4,500 lbs. This engine remained in active service with the Fayetteville Fire Department until the 1920s." [TM]

"The Silsby Steam pumper, featured on exhibit in the museum, was acquired by the Fayetteville Fire Department in the early 1880s. The following information concerning the Fayetteville Fire Department was extracted from an 1889 edition of the Fayetteville Observer: 'On the reorganization of the department in December 1884, we have been up with the times, and now have in service a first-class Silsby Steamer, with full equipment of hose, manned by the Chicora steam fire engine company, composed of about 40 of our best men...'"  [TM]

"The Silsby Steam Pumper was referred to as the 'Chief James McNeill engine,' in honor of one of the most revered fire fighters in the long history of the Fayetteville Fire Department. The Silsby was used to pump water from the various cisterns located in the downtown business district. The water was supplied to the cisterns through pine logs from Fountainhead Spring located on Haymount Hill. During its long tenure, the Silsby provided invaluable service into the 20th century. It was stationed in or around Market Square, where it could respond at the sound of an alarm. However, as the Fayetteville Fire Department acquired dependable motorized fire engines, it marked the demise of the old horse drawn Silsby, which was eventually placed in reserve and retired." [TM]

The steamer was still in service in 1914, and was a reserve unit by 1923. [ML]

Other notes, as appeared as captions for photos in the museum:

The North Carolina State Firemen's Association held their annual convention in Fayetteville in 1897, 1912, 1920, 1948, 1989, and 1995. Tournaments were conducted until 1940, the last year with competing teams. The North Carolina Colored Volunteer Firemen's Association also held annual conventions, beginning in the 1880s. Records are incomplete regarding convention locations. [ML]

Fayetteville Fireman - Luther Perry Horne

"During the early morning hours of December 21st, 1929, Fayetteville Firefighters responded to a fire at the old abandoned three-story Utley building located on Hay Street at the foot of Haymount Hill. The flames, which started on the ground floor[,] spread to the other two floors and were leaping high above the building. Luther Horne, along with other firemen[,] carried a line to the second floor, at which time the rear wall collapsed. Horne was buried beneath a large amount of bricks. After the rear wall collapsed, five other firemen were trapped, but were rescued and sent to the hospital. Police Chief, J. Ross Jones, who was a former Fire Chief, fell from a porch on the third floor of the building, where he had led a detail of men to carry a hose line. Chief Jones was pinned beneath a mass of debris for an hour and fifteen minutes with gallons of icy water, registered 26 degrees, dripping on him from above. After the living were rescued, Fayetteville fireman worked doggedly for five hours to remove the body of Luther Horne from the ruins. He was buried in the Home Cemetery in Beaver Dam Township." [TM]

Three Fayetteville firefighters have died in the line of duty since 1929:

Fayetteville Fire Chief - James Dobbin McNeill

"In the long history of the Fayetteville Fire Chief, many firefighters have distinguished themselves and have left a lasting mark. However, the name James Dobbins McNeill stands out among his peers and is legendary in the annals of the fire department. During his life, James McNeill accomplished many things, but he is best remembered for his role as firefighter. His career with the Fayetteville Fire Department began in the mid-1860s, when he joined the McLean Fire Company. McNeill is credited with reorganizing the Fayetteville Fire Department and serving as Fire Chief for forty years. He also organized the N.C. Fireman's Association and served as its president for 26 years. McNeill was then appointed President Emeritus of the N.C. Fireman's Association. He served three terms as President of the National Fire Association. McNeill promulgated the Fireman's Relief Fund, secured its enactment and supported it until his death." [TM]

"His laurels, however, do not end with his contributions to the fire fighting profession. McNeill served several terms as Mayor of Fayetteville, was Chairman of the Cumberland County Democratic Party, Secretary of the Board of Elections, and in 1901 served a term in the N.C. Senate. For 10 years, he was Chairman of the Fayetteville Board of Audit and Finance and also served as Captain and Commander of the Fayetteville Division of the North Carolina Naval Reserve. In addition to his public duties, McNeill was a successful businessman." [TM]

"This heroic firefighter, courageous statesman and beloved citizen died February 9th, 1927. During his funeral service all businesses in the city were closed, his body was borne from his home to the church and from there to the cemetery on a fire truck. The Market House bell tolled during the service and the city fire siren moaned as his body was lowered into the grave. After his death, the North Carolina State Fireman's Association erected a monument to his memory, which is located at the corner of Green and Bow streets." [TM]

"During its years of active service, the Silsby Steam Pumper, on exhibit in the museum[,] was known as the 'Captain James McNeill Engine.'" [TM]

Part II - Fire Stations, Fire Reports

These were all written by Mike Legeros, or are excerpting fire insurance or underwriting reports

Historic Fire Station 2

Located at 101 Olive Road in the Haymount community, Station 2 is the oldest structure serving the Fayetteville Fire Department. The 5,176 square-foot facility opened on September 13, 1941. It first housed a 1920 ALF pumper and the Fire Chief's car. During the 1950s, a service truck was also stationed there. Until 1964, the south side of the structure served as the Fire Chief's residence. It also housed the fire department dispatch center until the 1970s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the office of the Haz-Mat Chief occupied the space. Later used as a dayroom and a classroom, that side of the station was converted to a history room in 2002.

Artifacts displayed in the Fayetteville Fire Department History Room range from helmets to nozzles to a working alarm box. The electric-telegraph Gamewell box was once located on Virginia Avenue and is connected to a working punch register. When the box is activated, the number is recorded on ticker-tape. Numerous photographs are displayed on the walls and behind glass cases. Other display items include dispatcher journals, radio logs, and newspaper clippings. Many of the artifacts were donated by James H. Kyle Jr., who was the last surviving volunteer member of the fire department. He passed away on August 6, 2002 at age 79. Hanging in the room is Kyle's turnout coat, complete with 75 cents in one pocket: enough to provide an entire volunteer company with coffee and cigarettes after a fire back in the day.

Fire Chief Carl A. Cain

After serving as a volunteer firefighter for eight years, Carl Addison Cain was appointed Assistant Chief in 1943. He was promoted to Chief of Department on October 15, 1950. During his tenure, Chief Cain and his family lived at Station 2. They later moved to their own residence on E. Russell Street. Chief Cain committed suicide at his home on April 13, 1964. His death certificate lists the cause as gunshot wound to the head. He was fifty years old. Cain was born on May 27, 1913, in the Cross Creek community. He was buried on April 15, 1964, at Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville. In the years and decades following his death, strange occurrences have led the crews at Station 2 to believe the spirit of Chief Cain haunts the historic structure. Readers can tackle that one, and share their favorite ghost stories.

Fayetteville's Former Firehouses

Station 3 - 1314 Hillsboro Street

Located north of the city center at 1314 Hillsboro Street, the original Station 3 opened in 1948 with an engine company operating a 1923 ALF pumper. During the 1970s, the one-story structure also housed a medical unit. In 1975, the facility was relocated to 3225 Rosehill Road. By the early 2000s, the 2,483 square-foot structure served as a storage facility for the Parks and Recreation department

Station 5 - 3296 Village Drive

Fayetteville's first Fire Station 5 opened at 3296 Village Drive. Built in 1962, the one-story structure was relocated one block south to 3040 Boone Trail Extension in early 2004. A commercial developer provided both the land and the $1 million building in exchange for the station lot. Upon completion of the new facility, the engine house was demolished and a drug store was constructed on the site.

Central Fire Stations

The first Central Fire Station was located at 121 Gillespie Street and almost on the same site as an earlier engine house. Built in 1908, the two-story brick building housed both the fire and police departments. Apparatus at the time included two single-horse hose wagons and a fifth-size Silsby steam engine. By 1914, the building also housed City Hall. In 1942, the police department and other city offices relocated to the corner of Bow and Green Streets. In 1949, Central Fire Station was relocated to Bow Street. The Gillespie Street fire station was purchased by Stephen G. Worth. He subsequently renovated the structure, which served as Worth Business College. It was later razed for the Franklin Street Extension when the new county courthouse was built.

The second Central Fire Station was located at 155 Bow Street. The two-story, six-bay building opened on September 9, 1949. Land for the station was purchased in 1947, when $15,000 was paid for the home of the late R. H. Buckingham. The city already owned an adjacent vacant lot. Architect Basil G. E. Laslett designed the building and Player Construction was awarded the construction contract. The total cost of the building was $102,270. During its five decades of service, the facility also served as office space for the Fire Chief, Fire Administration, and Fire Prevention. The dispatch center was also housed at Central Fire Station during the 1970s, after a small single-story annex was built in the back of the building. Units housed at the station over the years included Engine 1, Engine 2, Engine 7, and Ladder 1. The station closed in 1998, when Engine 1, Engine 11, Truck 1, Squad 1, and Battalion 1 were relocated to 607 Person Street. The old building was purchased by a church and demolished about a year later.

Other Early Facilities

Other fire department facilities of the past included an engine house use on Gillespie Street, opposite of Franklin Street. The one-story station was built by 1885. The fire department had two hand engines at the time. It closed by 1891. Another early engine house was located at 502 Green Street. Though the building was built by 1885, the two-story structure began serving as an engine house between 1891 and 1896. The fire department had a steamer and three hand hose reels at the time. It closed by 1908. 

In addition to Central Fire Station on Gillespie Street, two hose houses were utilized around 1914. The small, single-story buildings were located at 303 Davis Alley in Haymount and at the split of Persons and River Streets in Campbellton. Each contained a hand-drawn hose reel equipped with 250 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. A third hand reel was stored at Central Fire Station, along with the horse-drawn and motorized apparatus.

The fire department's first training tower was constructed in the 500 block of North Eastern Boulevard as part of Pope Park in 1952. The tower was last used for training around 2007. The four-story brick structure and its property was deeded to the adjoining Cape Fear Botanical Gardens in July 2012. The structure is still standing.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map - February 1950

Fully paid, one chief, two assistant chiefs, ten lieutenants, one lieutenant mechanic, and thirty men. Three stations.

Station 1

Station 2

Station 3 - [ Note duplication of apparatus details ]

Gamewell fire alarm system with 208 boxes. Hydrants totaling 365 double and triple hydrants.

National Board of Underwriters Report - May 1953

Department has operated as full-paid with two platoons since August 1, 1947. Members work average of 84 hours per week, alternating 24-hour shifts that start with daily roll call at 8:00 a.m. Continuous watch is maintained at Headquarters, but no watch is kept at either Station 2 or Station 3. Off-duty members are notified by telephone in the event of a major fire requiring their assistance. All members are required to receive permission before leaving town during off-duty hours. In addition, a small number of former volunteers would respond on call in case of a large fire.

The Chief of Department is Carl A. Cain. There are forty-nine members including the Chief, two Assistant Chiefs, ten lieutenants, one lieutenant mechanic, two dispatchers, one fire prevention inspector, and thirty-two firemen. Four engines and one ladder are in service at three stations. Each is staffed with four firefighters. All companies have a Lieutenant on duty at all times, with exception of illness or vacation, when the driver commands the company. All company members are trained as drivers and pump operators.

All appointments and promotions in the fire department are made by the City Council, upon the recommendation of the Fire Chief and with the approval of the City Manager and the Civil Service Commission. Said commission was created by the General Assembly effective July 1, 1945. Applicants for appointment to the fire department must be between the ages of 21 and 35, with suitable height and weight requirements. They must pass physical, mental, and oral examinations. Once appointed, a firefighter must serve a two-year probationary period. All promotions to date have been made upon recommendation of the Fire Chief.

The Fire Chief is appointed by the City Council with approval of the commission. He is appointed for a four-year term. The city has a retirement plan, that provides for any fire department member reaching the age of 60 years or more, provided he has at least twenty consecutive years prior. The Fire Chief is 39 years old. One Assistant Chief is 55 and one Dispatcher is 70. All other members are under 46 years of age. Two men are on military leave.

The fire department regularly responds to most sections of Cumberland County, and is contracted for said service for $7,500 annually. The department attempts to restrict its county response to building fires or for fires that threaten to extend to buildings. All calls reporting brush or woods fires are transferred to the state forest service. The department also provides protection for the government reservation of Honeycutt, while the Fort Bragg Fire Department responds to all fires in the Spring Lake section of the county. The only other fire department in the county is Hope Milles, that protects the village and immediate surrounding area.

Other fire protection includes a Willys fire engine at the airport and a 1940 Howe pumper at the Veteran's Administration Hospital. The Fort Bragg Fire Department has four 1942 ALF pumpers and a Ford/LaFrance utility truck. Other mutual aid is available from the towns of Raeford, Dunn, and Sanford.

During 1952, there were 307 building fires: 101 extinguished with 2 1/2 or 1 1/2-inch lines, 80 with booster lines, 62 by hand extinguisher, and 64 out on arrival.

The fire alarm system is housed at Station 2, and is connected to a Gamewell fire alarm telegraph system.

Station 1 -  Headquarters, Bow and Person Street

Station 2 - Olive Road

Station 3 - Hillsboro Road

Fayetteville Fire Stations Today

1        609 Person Street       1997   10,334 square-feet, eight bays        
2   101 Olive Road     1941   5,550 square-feet, two bays   Alternate build year of 1940
3   3225 Rosehill Road   1975   4,970 square-feet, four bays    
4   406 Stamper Road   1960   6,120 square-feet, three bays    
5   3040 Boone Trail Extension   2004   8,400 square-feet, four bays    
6   4439 Cliffdale Road   1976   4,970 square-feet, four bays    
7   301 Stacy Weaver Drive   1988   6,036 square-feet, three bays    
8   1116 71st School Road   2000   6,747 square-feet, four bays    
9   5091 Sante Fe Drive   1976   7,613 square-feet, six bays   Former Bonnie Doone FD
Also houses police substation
10   3065 Radar Road,
Control Tower
  1968   4,000 square-feet, two bays   Airport/Grannis Field.
Alternate build/expansion year of 2011.
11   7690 Raeford Road   1992   13,320 square-feet, eight bays   Former Lake Rim FD
12   307 Hope Mills Road   1956   6,747 square-feet, five bays   Former LaFayette Village FD
14   632 Langdon Street   2005   19,406 square-feet, six bays   Also FSU facility.
Includes classrooms and college dorms for students,
and office space for campus police officers.
15   8434 Cliffdale Road   2008    10,680 square-feet, four bays   Alternate build year 2007
Alternate address 399 Buhman Drive
17   6701 Bailey Lake Road   2002   10,080 square-feet, six bays   Former LaFayette Village FD
19   3841 Walsh Parkway   2012        

Fayetteville Fire Apparatus History

See separate posting.


Here are most of my sources...

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