It was just after World War II and the town fathers realized that the town needed better protection against the threat of fire. Prior to 1947, the Town of Landis had a contract with the Town of China Grove to provide fire service. The service that China Grove provided was all volunteer and had a rather long delay of responding to Landis. Throughout the early years, the Linn Mill and Corriher Mill did provide some fire protection for the town through the use hand pulled hose reels and a small hand pulled chemical wagon. These two pieces of equipment were mainly used as fire protection within the mill companies, but they were used in town on occasion.
In early 1947, L.A. Corriher, mayor at the time, decided a new piece of fire fighting equipment should be purchased, a new fire station was to be built, and volunteers should be organized to form the new Landis Fire Department.
It is said that Mayor Corriher always purchased the best, so he met with a representative from American LaFrance Company to discuss ordering a new fire engine. Mr. Corriher told the American LaFrance representative that he “didn’t care about what kind of truck we get or how much it cost, as long as it was better than China Grove’s fire truck.” The site for the new fire station was going to be located on North Main Street right beside City Hall. A metal building with a sliding front door was built to house the town’s first fire engine and firefighters. The search was on the find the person to serve as Fire Chief. It did not take long, as Harry Brown was chosen for that position. Mr. Brown had some fire fighting experience and was more than willing to help serve his community. Some of the first drivers of the fire department were Rufus Honeycutt, Will Beaver, Cleat Daugherty, and Robert Alexander.
Since the Linn/Wright Funeral Home was the only business in town where someone had access to a telephone 24 hours a day, it was decided that the funeral home would take the calls for the fire department. After the call was received the fire siren would be set off by someone at the funeral home and when the firefighters arrived at the fire station they would have to call the funeral home on the telephone to find out where the fire was located. The Linn Mill and the Corriher Mill would blow a horn “66” when the fire alarm sounded to let the firemen in the mills know to go to the fire station.
In the early days, much credit was given to the Salisbury Fire Department for their assistance with training and organization. Some of the ones that helped out from Salisbury were Chief Charles Burkett, Marvin Yost, Bernard Penly, Chief Fred Shipton, and John (Poss) Poole.
The first structure fire call for the new Landis Fire Department was to the old Hinson house on East Ryder Avenue. It was a large two story, wood frame structure. A fire in the upstairs had started around the chimney. The structure was saved. All of the calls for the fire department were not confined to the town. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the fire department would answer calls west and east to the county line because at that time, Landis and China Grove had the only fire departments around.
The firefighters also had a need for a place they could meet and hold social gatherings. So, around 1950, land was acquired near the intersection of South Beaver Street and East Mills Drive. Mr. Lotin Corriher, mayor at the time, told the firefighters to go and build it, do all the work they could, and let him know what was left on the bill. Alton Patton was drafted into the fire department so he could do the carpentry work for free (if he was a fireman, they wouldn’t have to pay him!). The firefighters got together to cut all the wood for the fire hut and it was dried and stored behind Cleat Daugherty’s house until it was ready for building. After the fire hut was finished, a balance of $2500.00 remained. The bill was split three ways and paid by the Town of Landis, the old Linn Mill, and the old Corriher Mill.
During the building of the Fire Hut, one of the greatest fires in Landis’ history occurred. The old Roller Mill located on North Main Street suffered a devastating fire. Robert Alexander, Pat Deadmon, and Harry Brown were all on the Wright farm off of Hwy 152 cutting wood for the fire hut when the alarm sounded. When the men heard the fire siren, they headed back to town and noticed a large column of black smoke coming from the down town area. As Chief Brown was driving back to the fire, Pat Deadmon noted that “this was the worst ride in my life”. Pat didn’t think they would ever get back to town. At one time the firemen had the fire under control, and then something happened. An explosion! That was all it took, and the old Roller Mill was soon to be history. At the height of the fire, China Grove and Kannapolis were called to assist the Landis Fire Department. At one time during the fire, Mr. Fesperman, a next door neighbor asked Chief Brown if he should start moving his belongings out. Chief Brown exclaimed, “No! Don’t worry; we’ll save your house.” And they did, as the house is still standing.
Later on in the mid 1950’s several firefighters were issued fire phones in their homes. Dorsia Atkinson and Pat Deadmon both had these phones in their house and when a fire call came in one or the other would turn in the alarm. When the water plant opened and was manned 24 hours a day, the fire calls were received there. Then in the mid 1970’s all calls went to the Central Fire Station in Salisbury and then the calls were transmitted over radio.
Also, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the firemen were all real close to each other, a big family. They would have family night out down at the Fire Hut, which had one of the town’s first color televisions, a pool table, and a Ping-Pong table for enjoyment. They all enjoyed the social activities together. In the 1960’s the firemen started the Landis Little League baseball program which is still in operation today but the Recreation department now handles it.
Along with the Roller Mill fire, there were several other memorable fires in which Landis firefighters were involved. One of these calls was the Cannon Jr. High School fire. Reed Linn states “…it was a tremendous fire!!” “And you could see it from downtown Landis”. Another call the firefighters remember well is the old Beaver Home fire. The call went out at about 1:00 a.m. There was almost four inches of snow on the ground and the fire hydrants were all frozen. The only thing the firefighters could do was park the fire truck next to the hydrant and let the warm exhaust heat the hydrant and thaw the water so that the fire could be put out.
The firefighters of Landis Fire Department have also had some really close calls and scary moments. Pat Deadmon remembers a time on Everhardt Street when a backdraft occurred, but all the firemen escaped without injury. Both Cleat Daugherty and Pat Deadmon remember the explosion that knocked the back wall out of the Corriher-Lipe Junior High School. A valve was closed on the boiler during a test and too much pressure built up which caused the boiler to explode injuring one worker and killing the other. And several firemen remember responding to a call on Partee Street. When they arrived on Partee Street they found themselves being shot at by a man who was trying to keep the firemen from putting out the fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.
In the 1980’s Landis Fire Department went through some very significant changes. Firefighters were issued pagers so they could hear the call being dispatched and they would not have to rely on the fire siren alone as their only means of knowing if they had a call or not. Also, the fire departments First Responder program was started (only the third in the county at that time). The fire department has also seen the updating of apparatus and equipment to include the addition of rescue and extrication tools. The firefighters have also had more responsibility put on them including hose tests, pump tests, hydrant maintenance, ISO, and many others.
As of November of 2000 the surviving members of the original group of firemen are Will Beaver, Rufus Honeycutt, Paul Craver, and Cleat Daugherty.
What started out as a metal building and one fire truck in 1947, has evolved into a fire department consisting of two Fire Stations, three Engine Companies, one Ladder Company, a Brush truck, a Special Operations Squad Company, a Hazard Materials Trailer, two Command/Staff vehicles, and dozens of dedicated firefighters who spend countless hours studying and training to ensure the safety and protection of the citizens and community of Landis.