SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - One of the oldest documented fire departments in the state of N.C., will celebrate its 200th anniversary with a historical marker dedication and a fire truck parade in downtown Salisbury, Friday, Dec. 8.
Dating back to December 1817, 32 citizens pledged a total of $415 to start the process to purchase equipment "to protect the city from fire." Thus beginning the formation of the Salisbury Fire Department (SFD).
To honor its 200 years of service from firefighters past and present, a historical marker in the form of a timeline plaque will be placed on the 100 block of E. Innes St., on the spot where the city's first hook and ladder building once stood. The plaque dedication will begin at 10 a.m.
The anniversary celebration will continue with a nighttime fire truck parade beginning at 7 p.m., featuring dozens of fire vehicles, complete with blazing lights.
The parade will travel through downtown Salisbury along Main St. from Kerr to Fire Station No. 5.
"This anniversary celebration is 200 years in the making and we couldn't be prouder of the service we've provided to Salisbury over that time," said Fire Chief Bob Parnell. "We've seen a lot of changes in fire service even in the years that I have been fire chief, so you can imagine how we've evolved since 1817. This is a historic occasion in a historic city, and we are ever so grateful to be able to honor this occasion with our residents."
"We are very proud of the Salisbury Fire Department and all our firefighters do to save lives and help protect our city, said City Manager W. Lane Bailey. "Our fire service is one of the top seven in the state in terms of insurance ratings alone. We are more than honored to celebrate 200 years of this well-respected establishment."
Throughout its 200-year history, the SFD has embraced a number of fire-related technological advancements with an emphasis on fire apparatus innovation. For example, in 1906 the city was one of the first to buy a steamer pumper — a horse-drawn, steam-building, coal-burning machine that pumped water to throw streams onto fires. The steamer cost $5,500, and was supplemented with a motorized hose wagon four years later. Motor-drawn by 1922, it was a reserve unit by 1931.
The steamer was scrapped in 1942 during the metal drives of World War II. It is documented that the machine saved downtown Salisbury multiple times from potentially catastrophic fires throughout the early 1900s. In addition, in 1941 SFD was one of the first departments in the region to purchase an aerial device/ladder truck with a hydraulic ladder. The truck remains in inventory today and has been restored to its original specifications.
Some of the other advancements include the evolution from a combination fire service of paid and volunteer firefighters serving together to an all-paid fire department; a potential addition of a sixth fire station to keep up with city growth; and the collection of hybrid fire apparatus that can serve multiple purposes while fighting fires.
Both anniversary events on Friday, Dec. 8 are free and open to the public.