It is estimated, the first fire department in Wilson was organized around 1880 and was completely volunteer. Fire protection at this time consisted of the bucket brigade until the year 1887. In early 1887, a steam pumper was purchased, which was horse drawn, and water to supply this pumper was taken from cisterns located in the streets. The first cistern was located on N. Goldsboro St. in front of what is now the Woodard Building . The first fire station was located on N. Goldsboro St. where the parking lot adjacent to the Municipal Building is now located.
A major improvement in fire fighting occurred in 1892. A small pump station was installed on Toisnot Creek, at the present location of the bridge across the creek on Corbett Ave. Hydrants and mains were installed but water was not purified and was used only for fire protection.
In 1913, the first motorized pumping engine was purchased from the American-LaFrance Company of Elmira, NY.
To drive and maintain this vehicle, Captain L.F. Murray was hired from Goldsboro to become the first paid fireman in Wilson . He remained with the department until his death in 1934.
In 1924, fire destroyed the fire station and the old city hall located then on Goldsboro St . A new station was built in 1926 on N. Douglas St . In 1985, a new headquarters station was built at 307 W. Hines St.
The first organized department manned by paid uniformed firemen was organized on August 1, 1938 . There was 11 full time men and 26 call men – volunteers who received a small monthly salary whether or not the fought any fire. The new department was equipped with four trucks, three were pumpers and one a ladder truck.
Some of the first known fire chiefs to serve Wilson were Billy Simms, Earnest Nadal, Doane Herring, Ed W. Davis, and V.C. Martin who were all volunteers.
In 1938, A.L. Lancaster, who had been a volunteer chief since 1931, was appointed as the first paid chief and served until his death in 1949. July 1, 1948 , T.R. Bissett was named chief and remained until his retirement in July, 1971. In July 1971, Ben Williams was appointed chief until he retired in 1985. C.B. Rose was named chief in 1985 and served until he retired in Dec., 1991. Don Oliver was then hired as chief in March, 1992 and presently serves in that capacity.
The first piece of fire apparatus bought by the City of Wilson was painted battleship gray with gold trim. This color remained until 1939 when it was changed to red and continued until 1973, when it was replaced by lime yellow. The greatest change in fire trucks came about in 1973, with the purchase of Wilson 's first truck with an enclosed cab, which could seat five men. This unit was the first truck painted lime yellow and also the first to have a diesel engine, air brakes, and power steering.
Two companies. Fire station at City Hall at
The steamer Wilson FD purchased in 1887 was a Silsby 5th Size, registration #914. 5th size meant it pumped between 300 and 500 gpm.
Wilson firemen and American LaFrance fire engines. Courtesy Wilson Fire Department
Wilson municipal complex including fire station. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives
The City of Wilson maintains through Wilson Fire/Rescue Services fire stations, 20 emergency response apparatus, and 93 career firefighters protecting 29.2 square miles. Our current population is just over 50,000.
- Albert L. Lancaster - Chief - 1916-1933 / 1938-1949 *
- J.R. “Bob” Brinkley - Firefighter - 1934-1955
- J.C. Woodard - Captain - 1930-1955
- James H. Pridgen - Captain - 1938-1963
- Ronland Dawson - 1952-1966
- Berry L. Hedgedeth - Assistant Chief - 1935-1967
- Tyrus R. Bissitt - Chief - 1938-1971 *
- Robert Chocklett - 1951-1971
- Curtis E. Hathaway - Captain (Deceased) - 7-1-42 / 1-27-77
- James C Bailey - 1949-1978
- Frank Hayes - Captain - 1945-1980
- Hal C Wallace - Captain - 1950-1980
- James Bass Sr. - Captain - 1952-1981
- Lucian V. Deans - 1952-1982
- William F. Taylor - Captain - 1951-1983
- Vance T. Langley - 1955-1984
- Sidney Turner - Assistant Chief - 1945-1985
- Ben William - Chief - 1952-1985 *
- Van B. Etheridge - Assistant Chief - 1955-1986
- William W. Evans - 1955-1986
- Thomas A. Farmer - Captain - 1956-1986
- Elmer R. Pierce - Captain - 1965-1986
- J. Alton Durham - Captain - 1957-1987
- James E. Davis - Assistant Chief - 1955-1987
- George C. Howard - Captain - 1955-1987
- James Etheridge Jr. - Captain - 1958-1987
- Frank W. Owens Jr. - 1953-1987
- Thedie J. Shadding - 1966-1988
- W. Hoover Davis - Captain - 1955-1988
- Kenneth R. Radford - 1968-1989
- Franklin E. Adams - Assistant Chief - 1965-1990
- C. Bruce Rose - Chief - 1961-1991 *
- Jimmie H. Coley - Captain - 1963-1992
- Louis R. Page - Captain - 1966-1993
- Edward W. Galloway - 1975-1994
- Jasper E. Edwards - Captain - 1966-1994
- Jerry R. Lewis - 1964-1994
- William H. Lamm - 1965-1994
- Clarence L. Braswell - Captain - 1966-1994
- David S. Goff - 1964-1994
- Archie Fields - Captain - 1969-1994
- William R. Aycock Sr. - Firefighter (Deceased) - 1-26-93 / 2-13-94
- Ernest P. Barnes - 1982-1995
- James Phillip Lewis - Deputy Chief - 1964-1995
- Luby C. Hocutt - Firefighter (Deceased) - 8-10-93 / 4-9-95
- James T. Owens - 1967-1995
- Jasper E. Wilder - Captain - 1982-1996
- Otha W. Pollard - Battalion Chief - 1967-1997
- Michael E. Atkinson - Captain - 1987-1997
- Howard C. Boykin - Captain - 1976-1998
- Okey P. Thorne - Captain - 1971-1998
- Ricky D. Boyette - Captain - 1972-1999
- Delmon H. Lamm - Firefighter/ Engineer - 1971-1999
- James B. Edwards - Captain - 1969-2000
- William E. Simmons - Captain - 1971-2000
- William D. Sutton - Firefighter/ Engineer - 1971-1978 / 1979-2000
- Roy C. Page - Captain - 1971-2000
- Kenneth G. Etheridge - Lieutenant - 1974-1978 / 1980-2001
- Jimmy G. Owens - Captain - 1972-2001
- Kenneth Brewer - Captain - 1972-2001
- Sammie B. Bearden - Captain - 1971-2001
- Billy L. Wilson - Firefighter - 1972-2001
- John S. Craft - Captain - 1972-2002
- Ronnie E. Dilda - Firefighter/ Engineer - 1972-2002
- Percell Spell Jr. - Firefighter/ Engineer - 1975-2002
- C. Carson Cobb - Captain - 1985-2002
- J. Robert Haynes - Firefighter - 1974-2002
- Earl T. Best - Firefighter/ Engineer - 1970-2002
- Leroy Barnes - Division Chief - 1970-1976 / 1978-2003
- Randy Braswell - Fire Captain - 1975-2003
- Jerome Hester - Firefighter/ Engineer - 1978-2003
- Cathy Olive - Captain - 1988-2003
- Anthony U. Cooper - Fire Captain - 1990-2003
- Thurman Parish - Fire Inspector - 1980-2003
- James E. Baker - Firefighter/Engineer - 1975-2004
- James T. Poythress - Fire Captian - 1975-2004
- Michael G. Winstead - Fire Maintenance Specialist - 1988-2004
- Tony L. Langston - Division CHEIF - 1975-1976, 1976-2004
- Stephen J. Bogue - Fire Captian - 1977-2005
- Anthony G. Pulley - Firefighter - 1983-2005
- Joseph H. Barnes - Battalion Commander/Fire Marshal - 1984-2005
- Thomas R. Parker - Deputy Fire CHIEF - 1978-2005
- Dennis L. Etheridge - Firefighter/Engineer - 1976-2005
- Roy L. Baker - Firefighter/Engineer - 1980-2005
- Timothy E. Bissette - Firefighter/Engineer - 1977-2005
- Devone Bass - Fire Inspector - 2001-2006
- Timothy Bridges - Firefighter/Engineer - 1992-2006
- Donald L. Brooks - Firefighter - 1996-1998, 2000-2006
- Thomas L. Deans - Firefighter/Engineer - 1990-2006
- John E. Handy - Firefighter/Engineer - 1986-2007
- Clark A. Norville - Fire Captain - 1989-2008
- Archie R. Artis, Jr. - Firefighter - 1996-2008
- Reginald Yelverton - Fire Lieutenant - 1993-2009
- Dedrick J. Payton - Firefighter - 2003-2009
- Gregg A. Francois - Firefighter - 1998-2009
- Rebecca L. Hebb - Administrative Assistant - 1998-2010
- Ricky M. Davis - Firefighter/Engineer - 2003-2012
- Danny J. Skinner - Fire Captain - 78-87 / 89-90 / 1996-2012
- Jeff Winstead - Fire Marshal ~ 1996-2013
- William Wiggs - Engineer ~ 1987-2013
- Jackie Bass ~ GIS Tech / Administrative Assistant 1980-2013
About the Shield
In 1992 the Wilson Fire Department underwent a significant change in leadership. For the first time, since it became a career fire department in 1938, a new Fire Chief was hired, who did not come from within the organization. As an effort to help create a new organizational identity and culture, the new chief asked for volunteers for a Task Force with representation from all ranks of the organization. Their charge… develop a symbol for use as a uniform shoulder patch and apparatus door emblem that would represent the pledge of the department's mission.
Through effective communication, collaboration, cooperation and compromise a symbol was developed from the many ideas and samples that were developed by individuals on this team. The symbolic details of this emblem represent the values, goals and the vision that the members had. The meaning was explained when it was presented to the Chief. It is now a very important part of the identity of the organization and its membership.
The Maltese Cross Shape – represents a universal symbol for Fire Departments that value the tradition of protection and service to others, at all costs, as the Knights of Malta historically did.
The Rope Trim – displays no beginning or end…symbolizing continuous service to the community.
The Background – incorporates red white and blue “stars and stripes” displays the patriotism of the American Fire Service and the love of our country. The words FIRE and RESCUE are vertically displayed on the background field representing an all-encompassing service.
The Center Shield – presents a protective armor that safeguards the community. The words Protection, Inspection, Prevention are inscribed on around the Firefighting Cluster of tools used in fire suppression. The crossed tools overlay the flames of fire.
The Tree and Tobacco Leafs – integrates two components of the City of Wilson Official Seal . The City of Wilson is distinguished as a “City of Trees ” . Tobacco holds a prominent place in the history of the city, which was once the “Largest Tobacco Market in the World”
The Phoenix – is rising from the flames, indicating a reformation of the organization.
Following the development of the organizational symbol… the organization was renamed to reflect the department's mission and values. Thus becoming---