Station 54  &  Station 44
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On a cool March night in 1956, seven men sat on the steps of the Sunday School Building of Alamance Presbyterian Church and talked about the need for fire protection in the Alamance Community. On 20 May 1956, a meeting was held to see if details could be worked out for organization of a local fire department. On 23 July 1956, the Alamance Community Fire District was formed with Harry E. Forrest, Sr. as President; Russell Rich, Secretary; and Ralph Hobbs, Treasurer. Jim Hubbard was temporarily elected as the first Chief. Others present at the meeting were J. C. Andrews, Jack Holt, Nelson James, Fred Marsh, George McIntyre, Jr., Albert Plaster, Hase Smith, and Bill Whiteley.

Things were progressing nicely. On 5 March 1957, a First-Aid training course was started for all firemen. Because personnel was scarce in the daytime, David Cromer, Principal of Alamance School, allowed male teachers and older high school students to respond to fire calls when the alarm sounded during school hours. The alarm was a large mechanical siren on top of the station, still present on the old firehouse today. Bill Whiteley or Garland Jobe would receive a telephone call from the County Fire Marshal’s office giving the location of the fire. These two men would tell their wives the location and nature of the call and then respond to the fire station. Hopie Whiteley and Martha Ann Jobe would initiate a telephone call tree to notify the other firemen. When Bill or Garland reached the fire station, they would write the location of the call on a blackboard and then activate the siren before leaving out in the fire trucks.





Certificates of membership in the Fire District were sold and donations were received to have initial funds for the first operating expenses. Jim Hubbard, Nelson James and Attorney Luke Wright “rode out “the community to determine the boundaries of the District. Ralph Hobbs met with the County School Superintendent and the School Board and got permission to use the old Alamance School Agricultural Building to house the fire department provided that “nothing be done to depreciate the value of the building “. Alamance Fire Department would remain in the very same building until mid-2010.  

At a meeting held on 7 February 1957, Clay Welker was elected as Chief and Bud McLees was elected Training Officer. State Fire Marshal Sherman Pickard would come and set up training programs for the firemen. Applications for volunteer firemen were passed out and it was reported that the treasury had $1,669.30 - enough for building repairs and a used fire engine. Bill Whiteley was authorized to install a telephone in the station and the department began operations.

The Fire Department was able to buy an old war surplus fire engine for $100.00. “Old Betsy”, as she was fondly known, was a ten wheeled, all-wheel drive beast. It consisted of a 12 cylinder road motor and a separate engine solely for operating the pump. The truck had an open cab and often when approaching a fire, the second fireman in the truck would climb out onto the running board and start the pump engine in order to have it warmed up upon arrival at the scene.



On 1 January 1958, the District went to a property tax based system to obtain revenue. The first budget was $2,650.00 with anticipated income based on a tax value for 1958 of $2,660.00. The department borrowed $5,000.00 from the county to buy a new truck. Sherman Pickard suggested that a new truck would “be our best way to advance public relations” and also increase efficiency in firefighting. At a meeting on 10 October 1957, Bill Whiteley was elected as Assistant Fire Chief. He immediately ordered five sets of helmets, fire coats, and boots at a total cost of $119.75. A new American LaFrance pumper was ordered for $7,579.00, with a loan made by the county for $5,000.00 for seven years, interest free. To help pay for the new truck and other equipment, the firemen held their first barbeque in March 1958, Ticket prices were $1.25 for adults, and $.75 for children.

For decades, daytime availability of personnel continued to be a problem. In fact at one time, Alice Kirkman, Cathleen Kirkman, and Hopie Whiteley were authorized and trained to drive the fire trucks. After driving an engine or tanker to the fire, a fireman at the scene would operate the pump and fight the fire. A ladies auxiliary was organized circa 1959, and since that time has logged untold hours providing rehabilitation for the firefighters at working incidents. Additionally, they have contributed much needed additional support to the department and its members. 

Three Chiefs followed Clay Welker: Bill Whitely on 3 May 1965, Jack Varner on 19 December 1974, and Enos Smith on 1 July 1981. In July 1972, J.D. Kirkman, Jr. became the department's first paid fireman. In August 1977, Harry Forrest and Wayne Henderson were added to the daytime paid roster. (Despite being added to the payroll, all three continued to volunteer for the department during their off-duty hours.) Firefighting is a deep family tradition at Alamance, and members from multiple generations are not unusual.



In the first 25 years, Alamance Community Fire Department had progressed from 17 men to 40 well-trained firefighters; from a leaky agricultural building to a well- maintained 5 bay station; from a worn-out war surplus pumper to a chief’s car, 2 modern fire engines, 2 modern pumper/tankers, and a squad truck equipped with emergency first aid and rescue equipment. The department had also increased from 34 calls in 1958 to 292 calls in 1980.

 In 1981 Alamance purchased property on Blakeshire Road for the addition of a much-needed sub-station. Station 44 would be completed in 1984 with two drive-through bays capable of accommodating four apparatus as well as additional space designed to serve as future sleeping quarters. In 1991 replacement began on the fleet of aging straight-drive, gas-powered C-Cab fire trucks with custom-built, diesel-powered apparatus. Currently, Alamance is one of the only departments in the county that carries AEDs on every vehicle. 

 

Career and volunteer staffing has changed greatly over the past 25 years. Our most recent volunteer Chiefs have been Enos Smith (1981 - 1997), Albert Smith (1997 - 2004), and Bill Hodgin (2004-2005). Chiefs Victor Esch and Ray Andreno each served the department briefly, constituting the first two paid fire chiefs in the department’s history. Space and facilities were continueously added to the original Station 4, including adminstrative offices and sleeping areas, until the old agricultural building could expand no more. The need for a new station became painfully obvious, and construction began early in 2009 to provide a state-of-the-art facility just across the street from the original station.

Now referred to as Station 54 due to a county-wide renumbering campaign, the new building holds the space and technology to house the Alamance Community Fire Department through its next half-century of growth and service to the citizens that it serves. The trucks were finally moved across the street to their new home in June 2010. 



During daytime hours, three fighters cover Station 44, and four provide protection at Station 54 to help offset the reduced number of volunteers during the day. Alamance implemented its first 24 hour shifts in 2005 with one firefighter working per shift. Now two firefighters are on duty at the station around the clock. Residents supplement these career members, living for free at the fire station in exchange for being available to answer calls.

Alamance currently fields approximately 50 firefighters, paid and volunteer from all backgrounds and experiences. Community growth and aspects such as the addition of an interstate highway in the district has driven the call volume to over 900 annually. The department’s firefighters go to area schools, churches and daycare facilities, as well as community events throughout the year to stress fire prevention and to let the public know what their fire tax dollars are doing.



One of the department’s most popular events occurs every December when Santa Claus makes a special trip from the North Pole to ride around the community on top of one of the fire trucks, visiting each neighborhood in the district. This tradition, held the week before Christmas, is met by children and their parents with great cheer. The annual Firemen’s Barbeque is still always held on the first Saturday in March. The proceeds from this effort go largely to supporting charities and youth activities in the community. After all, the members of Stations 54 & 44  are here to serve the wonderful citizens of the Alamance Community.

 

 

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