This year the Raleigh Fire Department celebrates a milestone: their 100th anniversary as a career fire department. Special events are planned including a downtown birthday party on June 9, 2012. North Carolina’s Capitol City is protected by the second largest fire department in the state, but it started very small. Let’s turn the clock back 99 years.
In 1912, five volunteer fire companies and some 120 firemen protected Raleigh’s four square miles and nearly 20,000 residents. They operated five pieces of horse-drawn fire equipment: three hose wagons, one steam engine, and one service ladder truck. Fires were fought using hydrant pressure, though the steamer was used for major fires or calls outside the city. Alarms were sounded from Gamewell street boxes.
But insurance underwriters and city officials were seeing the need for an overhaul. Though the volunteer Raleigh Fire Department was 49 years strong-- next year also marks their 150th anniversary-- it was time for a change. It was time for a full-time fire chief, full-time firefighters, and motorized fire engines.
The reorganized Raleigh Fire Department started with two hose companies and 15 firefighters, plus Fire Chief Sherwood Brockwell and Assistant Fire Chief Charles Farmer. A third station and third hose company was placed in service within two months. The steamer and ladder truck were reserve apparatus.
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