Fire Underwriters Report, 1931

Fire Department - "Full paid, on 2-platoon basis." "Under supervision of the Commissioner of Public Safety," who "also has supervision over the Police, Sanitary, Building and Electrical Departments." "Total membership, 56, including the chief, 2 assistant chiefs, 6 captains, 6 lieutenants, 1 mechanic and 40 privates." "Five engine and 2 ladder companies are in service in 5 stations.  A captain and a lieutenant are provided, with one exception, for each company; the two ladder companies have only one officer on duty with each shift.  Company membership is divided into two equal platoons working 10 and 14 hours.  Members are allowed 10 days' annual vacation, the maximum number allowed off at one time being four; no substitutes are employed.  Continuous watch is maintained in all stations except when the companies are out."  "One 1,000-gallon and four 750-gallon American LaFrance pumpers are in service and a 600-gallon steamer equipped for towing is in reserve.  The chemical tanks on the pumpers have been changed to booster tanks.  Two American LaFrance ladder trucks are in service." "The chief is provided with a 5-passenger sedan.  The first assistant chief uses his own car and the second assistant chief rides the apparatus.  Headquarters is provided with an underground 800-gallon gasoline tank with visible measure curb pump from which fire department and all other city automobiles obtain fuel.  The chief's car would be used to carry gasoline to a fire or a tank wagon would be called." "Three of the five stations are 2-story brick, one is 2-story brick and frame, and the fifth is a one-story brick building, all of joisted construction.  Apparatus floors are of concrete." "Three are heated with stoves and two by steam with the heaters in small basements.  No hose drying facilities are provided in any of the stations; the tower at headquarters in which hose was formerly dried is no longer used for this purpose."

Fire Department Operations - "Drills and Training.  Members are given callisthenic drills daily.  Company drills are held on an average of once a week in hose and ladder work including the use of pompier ladders.  The drill tower at headquarters is used but its value is limited by the lack of sufficient open space around it.  Pumpers are run occasionally, suction being taken from draft or from a hydrant.  Meetings of the officers are held occasionally when the chief takes up special hazards and methods of fighting fires in the various buildings in the business district."  "Response to Alarms.  Three pumpers and 2 ladder trucks respond to first alarms from the business district, with another pump responding on a second and the last one on a third alarm.  The response to residential sections consists of 2 pumpers and the service truck unless it is in a section where the houses all of one story when the truck does not respond until the second alarm.  For telephone alarms from the principal mercantile district, the pumper and 2 trucks in headquarters respond after notifying the other companies; a box is pulled calling two more pumpers if help is needed.  For a telephone call from residential districts the pumper and service truck from headquarters and the nearest pumper respond.  An engine company moves in to headquarters whenever three companies there are out.  The off-shift members are called on a third alarm.  The chief responds to all alarms except to some in outlying sections; the first assistant chief, when off duty, answers first alarms in the business district and from colleges, and second alarms elsewhere."  "Fire Methods." Records show that "for 1930, 57 percent of fires were extinguished with chemicals or a small water line, and the remainder about evenly divided between direct hydrant and pump streams.  Ordinarily the first company to arrive lays a hose line and, unless the fire is showing, takes in its small line; the second company lays a line and connects its pump and the third company stands by waiting for orders.  The ladder companies raise ladders if needed, ventilate, help on hose lines, use salvage covers and remove water and rubbish after the fire is out." "Inspections.  Members devote part of their time, both while on duty and on the off-shift, to the inspection of all buildings, except dwellings, for hazardous conditions and to familiarize themselves with the construction of the buildings; complete inspections of the principal mercantile district are made about once every two months."

Fire Alarm System - Equipment at Headquarters is of "automatic type, Gamewell make, installed in 1925, and consists of a 12-circuit slate switchboard with the usual devices for charging and operating with batteries, and a 10-circuit automatic non-interfering repeater with contacts on the drum for 4-alarm circuits.  The former 4-circuit switchboard is set up in the operating room but is not used.  No transmitter is provided."  "Current for operating the system is supplied by a total of 288 cells of storage battery of the lead and acid type, in duplicate sets, on glass rods on porcelain insulators on pipe racks, in a well ventilated room." "Each fire station is equipped with a gong and register on some box circuit, and an automatic light switch.  In addition, gongs are provided in the pumping station and in the residences of the chief and first assistant chief.  A tower bell is provided at the fire headquarters, but is not used."  Fire boxes total 120.  "Nine boxes are on iron lamp posts and the remainder are attached to any available pole usually at or near street intersections."  "Boxes are painted red annually."  "Each fire station is connected with the public exchange of the telephone company by a single-party line." "Four rounds of box alarms are automatically transmitted over the system." "Telephone alarms are usually transmitted to fire headquarters but may go to any station called." "In 1930, there were 440 alarms of which 180 were by box, 245 by telephone and 15 verbal; 81 were false."

Outside Aid - Help "is available within an hour from Durham, 26 miles distant; two adapters for Durham hose are carried by Engine 1.  Additional aid could be obtained in from one to two hours from Dunn, 40 miles, Henderson, 45 miles, Goldsboro, 49 miles, and Wilson, 60 miles distant.

Source: National Board of Fire Underwriters Committee on Fire Prevention and Engineering Standards Report No. 162,  dated August 1931

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