Author talks about fighting fires in Black Mountain

Melanie English
Special to Black Mountain News

The Swannanoa Valley Museum will host Asheville Fire Department historian Brian Lawrence on June 20.

Lawrence will talk about his recent book, “Firefighting in Buncombe County.” Published August 2014 as part of Arcadia Publishing’s popular “Images of America” series, the book uses vintage photographs to chronicle the history of local fire departments throughout Buncombe County from the late 18th century to the present. Lawrence researched archives and oral histories to supply captions for the photographs.

When Buncombe County was formed in 1792, there was no municipal waterworks, and the population was sparse. Thus, individual landowners were responsible for stamping out fires, with the help of neighbors, until the formation of the first community-sponsored fire department, the Asheville Fire Department in 1882.

Black Mountain, established in 1893, witnessed a number of devastating fires, including the burning of the Black Mountain Hotel in 1906 and a block of Cherry Street in 1912. In 1920, 20 men formed the town's fire department, operating out of a vacant barn on Vance Avenue. The department soon moved to a new station on Broadway and converted a REO Speed Wagon into its first fire truck.

The department in 1922 moved into a station on West State Street designed by Richard Sharp Smith; it moved to its current location in 1987.

Lawrence, the son of a firefighter, joined the Asheville Fire Department in 2005 and currently serves with the rank of engineer. Lawrence became the department’s historian upon recognizing the necessity of preserving the history of local firefighting before relics and memories were lost.

Lawrence’s talk will be in the historic site of Black Mountain’s firehouse, now the museum’s home. For more on this event, contact the museum at info@swannanoavalleymuseum.org or 669-9566.

What: Asheville Fire Department historian Brian Lawrence

When: 11:30 a.m. June 20

Where: Swannanoa Valley Museum, 223 W. State St., Black Mountain

Cost: Free