February 25, 2018
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History and Facts
Updated On: Aug 18, 2009 (16:57:00)
History of the Chapel Hill Fire Department
Some of the research has been through archives or word of mouth.  Here are some of the interesting facts verified through multiple sources:
  • Inception of the department was March 2, 1896, when a petition from certain citizens proposing to operate a fire company was laid to committee.  It was looked on in favor but the municipality had no funds at the end of the year.
  • On September 23, 1901, the Town Board authorized the Finance Committee to purchase a hook and ladder truck, not to exceed $200.  It would supply both the university and the town with fire protection.  In 1903, a hook and ladder outfit was purchased for $190.
  • In May 1902, the first fire chief was elected.  He was John O’Daniel.  Before then, it is assumed that there was some type of bucket brigade.  A volunteer department staffed with “call men” lingered into the 1960’s when the first full-time paid staff appeared.


  • Also in 1902, plans were drawn up for a fire house located in the middle of Franklin Street.  It was supposedly, at that time, the only fire house in the country located in the middle of the street.  Unfortunately, a car crashed into the station.
  • On March 14, 1916, the department was authorized to purchase a 1914 Model T for $600 using money from both the Town and University.  It is one of the oldest motorized apparatus in North Carolina and is stored in the Chapel Hill museum.
  • A similar deal was proposed again in 1921 with UNC paying for half of a 750 gallon per minute American LaFrance. 
  • In 1996, the first of the Carolina Blue Fire apparatus appeared.  “Blue 32”, a 1996 Ferrara Spartan housed at Station 2.  This was a joint venture between the Town, UNC and UNC Hospitals.  The popularity of “Blue 32” started the trend for our current Engines and Trucks to be DuPont copywrited Carolina Blue.
  • Our next fire station to be authorized was in 1921.  It was actually a “Town Hall” Building housing the fire department and other town departments.  Its location was on Columbia Street near Rosemary Street.  It is still Town owned and now houses the Inter-Faith Council’s Men’s Shelter. 
Current Fire Stations and Apparatus
  • Station 1 and current Fire Administration, built in the 1960’s, is located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (once called Airport Road) and Columbia Street downtown.  Station 1 houses Engine 31, a 2001 KME Commercial Chassis; TAC51, a 2005 Ford 550 Brush/Parking Garage CAFS unit; and Chief 4, the Battalion Chief’s SUV.
  • Station 2, built in the 1950’s, is located at the corner of Hamilton Road and Raleigh Road (NC 54) in “Glen Lennox”.  Station 2 houses Engine 32, a 1996 Ferrara Custom, the first “Carolina Blue” unit.
  • Station 3, built in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, is located at Elliott Road and E. Franklin Street.  Station 3 houses Squad 33, a 2000 KME Commercial Chassis Rescue Pumper; and Truck 73, a 2006 KME Predator Chassis Custom 100’ mid-mount Aerial Platform Quint.
  • Station 4, built in the 1980’s, along with our Training Facility is located at the corner of Weaver Dairy Road Extension and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.  Station 4 houses Engine 34, a 2004 KME Custom Chassis Pumper.  Our Training Facility is the home office of the Training Division and includes a classroom, 2-story burn building, 4-story training/smoke tower, and apparatus service test pit.
  • Station 5, built in 2004, in conjunction with a southern annexation, is located at Bennett Road and US 15-501.  Station 5 houses Engine 35, a 2001 HME Custom Chassis Quint; and the Orange County Chiefs Association Fire Safety Training Trailer.
  • Station 6 is in the very early planning stages, in part with the development of Carolina North, a UNC educational and research campus.


For more valuable information, please visit:  www.townofchapelhill.org/fire

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