The Fayetteville Fire 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 led 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 department's 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 Fire Station 1 located at 607 Person Street, 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 had 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 Department continues to strive, grow, and deliver services to its community on a professional basis. Today 331 personnel and 17 fire stations and different divisions make up the department. There are also plans to have Station 4 relocated and to permanently locate Station 16 to improve response times and better serve its citizens. Over the years, the Fayetteville Fire 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!
1791: Fire Department chartered by NC Legislature.
1820: Water works and fire hydrants incorporated by the legislature and installed.
1831: Over 600 stores, residences and other buildings burned, nearly wiping town off the map.
1882: Capt. James D. McNeill elected first Fire Chief.
1883: African-Americans establish and staff two engine companies.
1884: Department reorganized; Silsby Steamer and 1,500 feet of new hose put into service.
1893: New water works system installed.
1900: Fayetteville Fire Company formed.
1903: Chief McNeill retires after 40 years of service, 20 as Chief. McNeill replaced by his son James S. McNeill.
1929: African-American company and Camp Bragg firefighters rescue firefighters and Chief from old downtown Utley Building that burned. They were buried in the rubble of a wall collapse. Luther Horne becomes the first Fayetteville firefighter to perish in the line of duty; passing away from a crushing injury.
1941: Fire station built in Haymount area.
1947: Department begins full-time 24-hour staffing of its two stations. Fate of African-American company after this is unknown, but detailed research is continuing.
1956: Second line-of-duty death was firefighter Williams Capps on July 18, 1956. Capps was repairing an old box alarm system.
1974: Third shift created; department’s personnel grows to 156.
1980s: Department sees increased growth and community development due to laws being changed by the General Assembly. The growth continues to present day – department has a regional and local Hazardous Materials response team.
2000: Third line-of-duty death was firefighter David Sharpe on March 17, 2000. Sharpe was driving an aerial device when it was struck by a train.
June 30, 2004: Department adds third battalion of firefighters.
July 2004: Western Fayetteville Annexation adding a third Battalion and three fire stations increasing personnel to 302 from 261 and increasing station count to 15.
October 2010: Council adoption of FFD/EM Strategic Plan
FY2010: Implementation of Mobile Computer Terminals (MCT)
FY2011: SAFER Grant allowed increase in personnel count to 330
April 2011: Tornado disaster between the City and Ft. Bragg
August 2011: Accreditation Status Achieved
2012: Addition of Emergency Management Position
2012: FFD/EM Personnel Count increased to 331
2012: Merge of City/County Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)
April 2012: Opening of Station 19 bring total station counts to 16
January 2014: Hazmat Team reorganized for additional coverage (Station 1 and 17)
July 2014: FFD/EM Administration moved from City Hall to Station 14
April 2015: Achieved ISO Class 1
October 2015: Implementation of closest unit dispatching through Automatic Vehicle locator (AVL)
For more information, check out the History Room at the Haymount Fire Station.