1791- PRESENT AND LOOKING FORWARD
The Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department is a unique department that is embodied with over 200 years of tradition, experience, leadership and growth. It is one of the oldest organizations in the state. The department was first chartered by the North Carolina Legislature in the year 1791 as the Fayetteville Fire Department. It mainly consisted of citizen fire brigades that had limited equipment, using only leather buckets. Just as many cities during this era, Fayetteville experienced a fire that nearly devastated the city. In the year 1831, over 600 stores, residences, and other buildings burned to the ground. This outcome was what led up to the purchase of the city’s first fire apparatus, a hand powered engine. It was purchased in 1832, and named the Yankee.
In the year 1882 Fire Captain James D. McNeill was elected the City’s first Fire Chief. During Chief McNeill’s tenure as Chief, the Fayetteville Fire Department experienced many changes. The department reorganized into a more manageable organization that included building actual fire stations and acquiring more fire apparatus. In 1884, the department received delivery of a new Silsby Steamer along with 1,500 feet of new fire hose. In 1903, Chief McNeill stepped down as Fire Chief. His time with the department included 40 years of service, 20 years serving as Fire Chief. At the end of his tenure, the department had blossomed. The membership was approximately 30 volunteers including the Chief.
In 1908, the City opened Central Fire Station. Prior to this, the department stored equipment in smaller houses. In 1914, the department purchased its first motorized fire engine which was an American LaFrance. Over the next decade, motorized vehicles replaced the older hand powered and horse drawn equipment. In the year 1941, a second fire station was built on Haymount Hill. With this station still in operation today, it is the oldest working fire station in the city. It also houses the department’s history room. The fire departments Silsby Steamer, and American LaFrance have both been restored. The Silsby Steamer is on display at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum and the American LaFrance is on display at Fire Station 2 on Olive Rd.
With the addition of a second station Fayetteville began to make the transition from an all volunteer department to a paid staff department. In the year 1947, the department began staffing both stations on a 24 hour basis. In 1949, a new Central Fire Station was built replacing the older one. This station would see over 50 years of service, until being replaced with today’s Central Fire Station, which was put into service in 1998.
Over the course of the next several years, the department experienced nominal growth. Additional stations opened adding additional apparatus and personnel to the city. In 1974, a third shift was added and the department staffing strength grew to 156 employees. In the 1980’s and 90’s, the state General Assembly loosened laws which allowed municipalities to grow. During this time, the department added a 2nd Battalion along with a Hazardous Materials Team available for local and regional needs.
In 2002, the department took a step to become one of the premier departments in North Carolina. The department received an ISO rating of “2”, which is something that few departments in the state have achieved. On June 30, 2004, the City took on a very large annexation process where it looked to increase by an estimated 40,000 residents. In doing so the fire department would increase by 3 stations, and add a 3rd Battalion.
The department then looked in the direction, of education. Fire Chief B.E. Nichols coordinated with Fayetteville State University to establish a Fire Science Degree Program. This was Chief Nichols vision to bring the fire department into the next era. Through a partnership with F.S.U., fire station 14 was built on college grounds and the program received national recognition. Fire Station 14 was awarded the Combined Use Bronze Award by Fire Chief Magazine. The station and program opened in early 2005.
The Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department continues to strive, grow, and deliver services to its community on a professional basis. As of July 2010, the department consists of 330 personnel and 16 fire stations. There are plans for 2 new fire stations to be built. There are also plans to have station 4 relocated to improve response times and better serve its citizens. Over the years, the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department has seen numerous changes to improve our levels of service. However, while we are always looking forward, we will never forget where we have been!