October is Fire
Prevention Month.  National Fire
Prevention Week is observed during the week in which October 9 falls in
commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire. 
That fire burned for three days from October 8-10, 1871 destroying over
3 square miles of the city and taking approximately 300 lives.  Also on October 8, 1871 a fire in Wisconsin,
known as the Peshtigo Fire, wiped out 16 towns, burned over a million acres and
killed approximately 1500 people. 

 In remembrance of those events the Fire
Marshals Association of North American began working to educate the public
about the importance of fire prevention. 
In 1925 President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation observing the
first National Fire Prevention Week.

The first Brevard
Fire Department was organized in the late 1800s.  The fire station was located between the
courthouse and the McMinn building, in the middle of what is today N. Broad Street. 

The 1911 Sanborn
map shows a small wooden building approximately 170 feet north of the
intersection with Main St. labeled “Fire Dept.” 
Additional information states, “Volunteer Co., chief & 14 men.  2 fire stations.  1 combination wagon with 60’ of ladders, 3
Babcock extinguishers & 800’ 2½” hose (stationed near court house).  1 cart at Southern depot with 500’ 2½”
hose.  Bell alarm.”

There is also a
small structure on the east side of the building labeled “Fire Bell.”  According to Transylvania Times articles from
May 31, 1984 and July 4, 1988 the fire bell was purchased in May 1911 from the
Cincinnati Bell Company for $155. 

At this time the
Transylvania County Jail was in a brick building about 100’ west of the Fire
Department.  In the early 1920s a new
jail was built behind the Courthouse and Citizen’s Telephone Company moved into
the old jail building.  Apparently the
fire bell was moved to a platform beside the Telephone Company.  When a fire call was received, the operator
could pull a lever to ring the bell and notify firemen and anyone near enough
to hear it tolling.

Fire Department, 1925 American La France engine

photo taken by William Austin

The 1924 Sanborn
map shows the same building without the fire bell structure.  Information included reads, “Volunteer.  Chief & 15 men.  1 American LaFrance equipped Ford auto truck
carrying 1000’ 2½” hose.  600’ in reserve.  Auto truck has 40 gallons chemical tank &
hose.  Alarm bell.”

 In 1925 the fire
department was reorganized and relocated to a new brick building on W. Main St.
across from the present City Hall.  City
offices were located on the second floor.

In the late 1920s
or early 1930s the fire bell was replaced with a siren.  The bell was purchased by St. Philip’s
Episcopal Church but never used.  They
gave it to Grace Baptist Church who eventually returned it to the Fire
Department in 1984.  The old bell is now
in front of the Brevard Fire Department as a display.

Brevard Fire Department, 1946

By 1945 the fire
department and City Hall had moved to the south side of W. Main St. into the
building where the City Council meets today. 
Fire Department information from the 1931 and 1945 Sanborn maps state,
“1 paid chief & 2 paid drivers, one on duty at all times.  13 volunteers.  1 American La France triple combustion auto
truck, capacity 750 gallons per minute. 
1000’ 2½” hose.  40 gallon chemical
tank & 150’ chemical hose.  1 hand
reel carrying 300’ 2½” hose.  Total
amount of good hose 2000’.  Alarm by telephone
& siren on City Hall.”

The current Fire
Department on the corner of W. Main and England streets was built in 1969.  Currently the Fire Department has two paid
staff members from 8 am until 5 pm.  The
remainder of the personnel is comprised of volunteer firefighters.

If you have
information or photographs telling the story of Transylvania County’s Fire
Departments in Balsam Grove, Cedar Mountain, Connestee, Lake Toxaway, Little
River, North Transylvania or Rosman that you would like to share contact Marcy
at the Library.

and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina
Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit
the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about
our history and see additional photographs. 
For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at
[email protected]
or 828-884-3151 X242.

search our catalog

search our events

search our website

search our catalog

search our events

search our website

(828) 884-3151

212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712