The warehouse, Field and Smith General Store, the MethodistChurch, the Drug Store, Russell General Store - all were consumed. The roof of the Moore and Hoke General Store also caught fire, but that building was saved. In this fire, the worst in the town's history, the entire business district was ravaged, with only three buildings left standing. Every man and woman in town fought the fire with the only equipment available -buckets of water!
In 1920 the town bought its first fire-fighting equipment: twochemical tanks mounted on a two-wheeled cart pulled by hand. The outfit, purchased from the American-Lafrance Fire Engine Company, cost $1,008.99. In 1921 the Town Council voted to build a house for the fire equipment and to build it of stone. Still, in the early '20's, a Model T Ford truck was purchased, and the chemical tanks were mounted on the truck. By the late '20's, the town was constructing a water system. A big step toward better fire protection, and the truck was used as a hose wagon. The T-Model was used until 1929, when it was traded for a new Chevrolet truck. In 1932 the Council gave Police Chief Mart Wilson permission to use the fire truck for dragging streets when practicable.
On October 16, 1934, Mayor D. M. Cline called a meeting to organize a volunteer fire department officially chartered by the town. After making a presentation about chartered departments, Cline called for volunteers. The Town Board approved paying each member answering a fire alarm $2.00 when it was necessary to throw water and $1.00 when no water was thrown.
In 1939 the Fire Department took up residence in the new MunicipalBuilding on Falls Avenue. During the late 1930's, water mains had been installed throughout GraniteFalls, and the firemen began raising funds for a pumping unit. On March 3, 1941, the town purchased it's first new fire pumper, a Ford 500 GPM American-Lafrance pumper powered by a 95 horsepower Mercury V-8. The outfit came with hose car and booster equipment. Purchase price: $3,590.00. The fire department still has this truck today.
In 1947 CaldwellCounty purchased a Mack Combination Tanker and Pumper for the GraniteFalls Fire Department in return for fire protection in the southern section of the county. After adding this equipment, the 1929 Chevrolet truck was sold.
In 1953 the Mack truck was sold, replaced by a Ford 500 GPM Combination Pumper and Tanker. This truck, used for fighting county fires, was one of the best equipped trucks in the department. In 1957 the Town Board authorized the purchase of two Scott Masks, the first self-contained breathing apparatus for the fire department. A new Ford 750 GPM American-Lafrance pumper was added in 1959 at a cost of $11,984.00. That purchase gave the department three trucks in service with pumping capacity of 1,750 GPM, earning the town a Class 7 fire insurance rating. The first Fire Prevention Code was adopted for the town on May 18, 1964.
In 1966, the fire department moved into its current location, a new 5,000 square-foot fire station. The new facility boasted a truck bay large enough to hold four trucks, a lobby/lounge area with kitchen, sleeping quarters, and a garage bay for truck maintenance.
Through the following years, many upgrades have been realized by the fire department pertaining to equipment and services. The fire department currently has two Class A Pumpers, one Pumper/Tanker, an 75 foot Ladder Truck, a Brush Truck, a First Responder Truck and the Chief's car. The fire department is a combination paid/volunteer department and because of the constant upgrades boasts a Class 4 fire insurance rating. The department is equipped with up-to-date protective clothing for structural and wildland firefighting, and self-contained breathing apparatus to protect each firefighter.
The Fire Department's mission of saving lives and property has not changed, but due to the rapid change in social and world events, it has been necessary for the fire service to diversify it's abilities and areas of expertise.
In 1986 the department began training it's members in the field of emergency medical care, operating under the CaldwellCounty Medical Services. This service provides GraniteFalls citizens emergency medical care within minutes of placing a call for help. Medical care has expanded from basic patient care to dealing with Blood-borne Pathogens, Hepatitis B, using Automatic Electronic Defibrillators, and epinephrine injections for anaphylactic shock. Emergency medical responders undergo required medical training on a monthly basis, in addition to the required hours of in-service fire-related training.
Another added duty for the fire department is dealing with hazardous materials. In-depth training and certification, ranging from Awareness Level up to Operations Plus Level is required of all firefighters. This area also requires that firefighters take upgrade training each year to maintain their level of certification. This knowledge allows firefighters to evaluate the scene of a hazardous materials incident and make appropriate decisions concerning product identification, proper evacuation procedures, decontamination procedures, safe handling techniques and eventual closure. The introduction of meth labs in homes, motels and even motor vehicles has placed firefighters into another realm of danger. These labs can present immediate unknown danger to firefighters who may be responding to a call for assistance on any number of unrelated matters.
Terrorism abroad and in the United States has presented a new challenge for the fire department. Instances of anthrax, car bombings, using planes as weapons of mass destruction are but a few of the resources available to terrorists.
Even a small town fire department may be called upon to meet the same challenge that faces a large metropolitan area. GraniteFalls has that potential with an airport just minutes away, a local post office, a water distribution system, and it's own electrical system. New knowledge and training in these areas are developing on a daily basis and the fire department will continue to meet the needs of its citizens in providing the very best service available.
© Town of Granite Falls, NC.