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To mark 200th birthday, SFD will have firetruck parade, marker dedication Dec. 8

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SALISBURY — The Salisbury Fire Department, one of the oldest documented fire departments in North Carolina, will celebrate its 200th anniversary with a historical marker dedication and a firetruck parade in the downtown this coming Friday.

In December 1817, 32 citizens pledged $415 total to purchase equipment “to protect the city from fire,” according to city records.

It marked the beginnings of the Salisbury Fire Department.

To honor its 200 years of service from firefighters past and present, a historical marker in the form of a timeline plaque will be placed in the 100 block of East Innes Street at the spot where the city’s first hook and ladder building once stood.

The plaque dedication will begin at 10 a.m. Friday.

The anniversary celebration will continue with a nighttime firetruck parade beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, featuring dozens of fire vehicles and their blazing lights.

The downtown parade will travel along Main Street from Kerr to Monroe streets, then proceed to Fire Station No. 5 next to Chestnut Hill Cemetery.

Both anniversary events Friday are free and open to the public.

“This anniversary celebration is 200 years in the making, and we couldn’t be prouder of the service we’ve provided to Salisbury over that time,” Fire Chief Bob Parnell said in a city press release.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes in fire service, even in the years that I have been fire chief, so you can imagine how we’ve evolved since 1817. This is a historic occasion in a historic city, and we are ever so grateful to be able to honor this occasion with our residents.”

City Manager Lane Bailey added, “We are very proud of the Salisbury Fire Department and all our firefighters do to save lives and help protect our city. Our fire service is one of the top seven in the state in terms of insurance ratings alone.

“We are more than honored to celebrate 200 years of this well-respected establishment.”

Throughout its 200-year history, the Salisbury Fire Department has embraced a number of fire-related technological advancements with an emphasis on fire apparatus innovation.

For example, in 1906 the city was one of the first to buy a steamer pumper — a horse-drawn, steam-building, coal-burning machine that pumped water to throw streams onto fires. The steamer cost $5,500 and was supplemented with a motorized hose wagon four years later.

Motor-drawn by 1922, it was a reserve unit by 1931. The steamer was scrapped in 1942 during the metal drives of World War II. It is documented that the machine saved downtown Salisbury multiple times from potentially catastrophic fires throughout the early 1900s.

In 1941, the Fire Department was one of the first in the region to purchase an aerial ladder truck with a hydraulic ladder. After a repurchase and a complete restoration to its original specifications, the truck remains in the city inventory today. (See accompanying story.)

Some of the other advancements include the evolution from a combination fire service of paid and volunteer firefighters serving together to an all-paid fire department; a potential addition of a sixth fire station to keep up with city growth; and the collection of hybrid fire apparatus that can serve multiple purposes while fighting fires.

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