Salisbury Fire Department celebrates 200th birthday

(David Whisenant-WBTV)
(David Whisenant-WBTV)
(David Whisenant-WBTV)
(David Whisenant-WBTV)
(David Whisenant-WBTV)
(David Whisenant-WBTV)

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Few fire departments in the United States can celebrate what is being honored on Friday in Salisbury: the fire department's 200th birthday.

The celebration will begin at 10:00 am in the 100 block of East Innes Street with the unveiling of the historical marker.  A special fire truck parade featuring entries from a number of fire departments will take place in downtown Salisbury at 7:00 pm.

According to the department's web site, Salisbury's first fire company was formed in 1817 when James Monroe was president.  32 citizens pledged a total of $415 to start the process to purchase equipment "to protect the city from fire."

In 1855 the Salisbury Vigilante Fire Company was formed and formal organization of the Salisbury Fire Department took place 22 years later in 1877.

The first steam pumper was purchased for $5,500.00 in 1908 and 4 years later, the first motorized vehicle was bought. This was a hose wagon. In 1912.

A public fire alarm box system was installed with 20 fire alarm boxes installed on street corners. In 1921, the horse drawn pumpers were placed in reserve.

The first ladder truck was purchased in 1941. This was an American LaFrance open cab 85' ladder truck. The truck was replaced with another American LaFrance 85' ladder in 1965.

Also this year, a new headquarters fire station was built to accommodate the bigger pieces of equipment. The old quarters were so tight, one truck couldn't turn left out of the station. They would have to turn right and go around the block.

In 1973, manning levels were increased to allow a third shift to be added and personnel worked 4 days, 4 nights, and had 4 days off. Firefighters handled dispatching duties up until 1977 when dispatchers were hired to dispatch the city and county fire departments.

On 1978, the Salisbury Fire Department entered into the first responder program by converting a step van into an ambulance. Transport was still handled by a county agency, but the unit was certified in the event the county unit could not respond.

A new 110' Pirsch ladder truck was bought in 1986 and a major purchase of apparatus was made from E-One in 1988. Three custom pumpers with enclosed cabs were bought to replace an aging commercial pumper fleet. Also purchased that year was a 3,000 gallon tanker from Grumman.

1987 saw a change in the way that fires and other emergencies were reported. The 911 system was put into service in Rowan County and moved the dispatchers to a new communications center. The last of the fire alarm boxes were removed from service.

The 90's saw more technology changes take place. The department changed over to the 800 MHz radio system and computers were installed in the city's three fire stations. In the early 90's, a Hazardous Materials Team was developed in partners with the county's emergency management division to respond to hazardous materials incidents within the county.

After many years in the planning, the department was evaluated by ISO in 1995 and received a Class 2 rating. The previous rating was a 3.

As the 90's come to a close, the department received a squad truck as a generous donation from a local industry. This addition became part of the ladder company and carries additional equipment. Another generous donation came in the form of a defibrillator unit.

Personnel were certified in EMT-D with additional units budgeted to place one on each front line engine.

The long awaited fourth station on Statesville Boulevard opened its doors on January 1, 2007.

A 2000 E-One 95' Platform is housed at station 4, along with a reserve ladder, foam trailer, reserve engine, and a haz-mat trailer.

According to the web site, the Salisbury Fire Department, led by Fire Chief Robert Parnell, "strives to provide the citizens of Salisbury with the highest level of emergency services. We are committed to the preservation of life, property, and the environment by effectively meeting the public safety and welfare needs of our diverse community."

"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."

The Salisbury Fire Department responds to over 4,000 incidents a year. The Department employs over 100 highly trained men and women.

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