This Week in Durham History
The Durham Fire Department began in December 1872, with two, 20-foot ladders and a few volunteers. By 1876, 33 volunteers had been recruited, and within four years, a hook and ladder company and a bucket company were formed.
Heavy fire losses in 1882 prompted the formation of the Durham Chemical Fire Company under the leadership of R. D. Blackwell and the purchase of a new chemical wagon. Fire Chief Blackwell reorganized the department and stepped up recruitment, and by 1890 three firefighting companies and firehouses existed: Dick Blackwell Hose Company #1, Independent Hose Company #2, and the all African American Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company #1.