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history-Horse-Drawn-Fire-TruckThe first fires to take place in Henderson were reported by people hollering fire! All fire fighting in Henderson was strictly voluntary which began in the mid 1800’s. W.W. Reavis gave Henderson its first fire truck and Colonel W.H.S. Burgwyn gave the second truck in 1882. The two fire trucks were hand operated by firefighters. The trucks had two long handles on both sides and when properly pumped they could produce a fire stream of 100 foot or better.

The first firehouse was built between Montgomery and Young Streets. The firehouse was constructed of pine and of course painted red. The firehouse had a tower with a bell in it and the bell was rung so many times for each ward and after giving such signals it would ring continuously until the fire was under control.

Our firefighters later took the name of the “ Nelson Hose Company”, so named after Mr. Nelson, who helped install Henderson’s water system in 1892. In 1905 the fire department consisted of several volunteers and a one horse fire wagon. During this era, the blacks also had a fire department. The department consisted of volunteers and a two-wheeled horse wagon drawn by hand. Jim Gill a local barber, led the group which went under after a few years.

history-oldfire5In 1908 the fire station located at 205 North Garnett Street was built. This fire station is a two-story structure with a clock tower. This structure is still in use today and currently is under going some renovations. The clock in the tower is still operable and chimes every hour. The apparatus floor still has cracks in the floor, where the horses were housed and their urine was able to drain away. The side door on Young Street still has rounded granite corners, so if the hubs of the horse wagon hit them going out of the door they would not get stuck. The inside of the clock tower still has hooks, which the fire hose was pulled up to the top for drying. Of course the shiny brass slide pole still stands.

On March 15, 1915 a committee recommended that a new fire truck and a fire alarm system be purchased. The financing for this truck was as follows: $10,000.00 in bonds was issued at 5% and to run 30 years. When the bonds were at last paid, the town had paid the $10,000.00 principal and $15,000.00 in interest and the truck was junked 90 days before the last bond was paid. In 1919 Henderson’s last horse and wagon were sold. Various types of motorized fire trucks were purchased over the years as needed.

firedept-Dabney_Fire_StationIn 1974 the present Central Fire Station was built and one fire truck was also purchased. The Insurance Service Rating Office of North Carolina recommended the addition of the second fire station, fire truck and additional manpower. With the construction of the Central Fire Station, the fire department went to a three-shift platoon system.

The Central Station has a large two-bay apparatus floor downstairs with administrative offices, alarm room and kitchen area. The upper floor of the station has a dormitory, classroom, bath facilities and administrative offices. This station also has the traditional brass slide pole.

In 1976 a big change took place in the Henderson Fire Department. All of the firefighters became North Carolina State Certified Emergency Medical Technicians. The firefighters completed a 120 hours long medical course, which covered all aspects of airway management, splinting and hemorrhage control. Since 1976, the firefighters recertify every four years with the state of North Carolina to keep their E.M.T. certification.

Rescue1On April 1, 1992 the Fire Department began to deliver a higher level of Emergency Medical Care. The Fire Department started the North Carolina Emergency Medical Technician – Intermediate Program. The firefighters were trained to administer: three (3) intravenous solutions (lactated ringers, D5W and Normal Saline), 50% dextrose for hypoglycemia and epinephrine for the anaphylactic reaction. The firefighters can insert a Combitube into a breathless patient to help restore breathing. The firefighters with the use of a defibrillator can defibrillate a breathless and pulseless patient. The Intermediate program has been a big success and it has been very beneficial for our community.

In 1996, we created a Fire Prevention Officer position in our department. The individual in this position is responsible for fire education in our department. This individual promotes fire prevention and education in our community. Our target group for fire education is elementary students. We believe that with a good fire education program, we can make Henderson a safer place to live.

In 1997, we implemented a Smoke Detector Program. The Fire Department will donate and install smoke detectors in homes that are located in Henderson and Vance County. We target senior citizens and citizens that may cannot afford smoke detectors. We cannot install smoke detectors in rental property. State Fire Prevention laws mandate that landlords be responsible for their property. This program has been very successful based on citizen response. Smoke detectors are our first line of defense in early fire recognition in residential fires.

Ladder1In 1998, we took delivery of a new Rescue Truck. This truck is state of the art. This piece of equipment enables us to transport all of our personal seated and seat-belted in to and from calls. The truck carries rescue equipment, breathing air and it has it’s own power plant and area lighting. This truck’s cost was $182,000.00

April 1, 1999 marked the retirement of Fire Chief Ranger Wilkerson. This ended a leadership era in our department. The Chief contributed a lot to the growth and success of our Fire Department. He will be greatly missed.

Also on April 1, 1999 the Fire Department began a new era of leadership when Daniel E. Wilkerson was named Fire Chief.
In December 2004 the Henderson Fire Department took delivery of a new 2005 100’ Ladder Platform. This piece of equipment will serve the City of Henderson for many years.

In 2016, Wilkerson retired from the department. Steve Cordell was promoted to Fire Chief and served until 2023 when he passed away. 

Today, under the direction of Fire Chief Timothy Twisdale, the Henderson Fire Department offers the citizens of Henderson, fire suppression services, emergency medical services, fire prevention and inspections, fire education and rescue services.