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having a fire department convention in Fayetteville, so there weren’t many fire-men 85 “The story Daddy told us was the fire broke out and the fire depart-ment was at the beach,” Keels says. The Wrightsville Beach fire of August 1948 was fought by a volunteer crew of local firefighters assisted by the Wilmington Fire Department. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM W PHOTOS COURTESY OF AL CREASY ith its frequent high winds and wood-frame homes built in close proximity, Wrightsville Beach has always been vulnerable to the spread of fires. An initial lack of a struc-tured fire department, adequate equipment and an organized force required Wrightsville Beach residents to rely on volunteers. If there was a call, there might be one, two or three people available — or there might be 25. Some volunteers lived on Harbor Island. A surplus civil defense two-horsepower siren alerted volunteers. Firefighters complained they could not hear the sirens at night, especially during the winter with the wind blowing. The Wilmington Fire Department could help, but it took time to get men and gear across the bridge. A Mack Fire Engine and auxiliary 500-gallon-per-minute Packard Pumper replaced the department’s truck-drawn hose trailer in the mid-1940s. At the rate the 1948 fire burned, a water flow of 2,500 to 3,000 gallons per minute would have been needed to extinguish it. As the fire jumped from house to house, the volume of water and manpower needed increased per structure.


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