Our History


Five Business Buildings Destroyed in Blaze Originating in Lentz Store at 12 oclock Last Night Post Office Among the Buildings Burned

According to advices reaching Boone late this morning, a large part of the business houses of the town of Blowing Rock are in ashes, as a result of a fire thought to have originated about 12 o’clock last night.

The Lentz Store, a large general mercantile establishment which was totally destroyed including all the contents is said to have been covered by insurance. The H.C. Hayes store building was destroyed, but practically all of the stock recovered. Young’s Café an entire loss, as was the Episcopal reading room and exchange building. Some of the current records were recovered from the Postoffice, which is otherwise a complete loss.

The loss has been estimated at from $50,000 to $100,000. With the exception of H.C. Hayes and Co., and the Martin Drug Store, no insurance is believe to have been in force.

The city of Blowing Rock may be expected to rise from the ashes phoenix-like with a short while, as plans for building operations are under way today, and it may be expected that the new business section will be bigger and better than ever before.

- Excerpt from Watauga Democrat

Blowing Rock Volunteer Fire Department’s roots go back more than 80 years. They go back to a time when the coming of the automobile and the improved turnpikes and roads were earning Blowing Rock a reputation as a popular vacation spot. Comfortable and modern boarding houses, hotels and inns were the prime businesses in the Blowing Rock area.

In the fall of 1923 Blowing Rock citizens decided they needed to do something when a fire almost destroyed the community. The fire that started late one evening, swept through the tiny village destroying building after building. With no fire department in 1923, the citizens carried water in buckets from nearby wells to douse the fire and prevent it from spreading. Little could be done to control the fire and an entire section of town was gone in a matter of hours. Without a doubt, the fire was the most disastrous event in the city’s history. A new ordinance banning wood construction on Main Street was immediately put into place. Only weeks after the fire, the organization of the Blowing Rock Volunteer Fire Department began.

In 1926 the Fire Department was formally established and there was no shortage of volunteers. On the first official day there were 38 men on the roster. The first chief was a local plumber, Joe A. Panella. Chief Panella assigned Paul Klutz, Robert Green and Robert Pringle to serve as drivers. The department received their first fire engine in December of 1926. An American LaFrance was purchased for $6,500.00 through a community-wide drive. Private donors contributed $5000.00. The Community Club donated $300.00 and a gala dance at Mayview raised another $1000.00. The fire engine was kept at the station on Sunset Drive and if the firemen were unable to start the engine they could jump-start it by rolling it down the hill.

On March 23, 1927, what might have been a disastrous fire was prevented by the timely arrival of the brand new Blowing Rock fire truck to the barn behind Holshouser’s store. The old barn caught fire and threatened the store, the W.L. Holshouser home place, the Romy Ruppert house and a frame store building across the ally from the store. When Chief of Police, Gene Story, turned in the alarm, the truck responded with engineer Rob Greene at the wheel. Under the direction of Fire Chief J.A. Panella, two streams of water were soon playing on the flames, which were confined to the barn. Two horses and a cow in the barn were saved.

- Excerpt from Watauga Democrat

No other trucks were purchased until 1941 when the department received a 1941 Ford American LaFrance. Blowing Rock Fire Department was one of the only two departments in Watauga County until 1973.

Until 1973 the volunteers were notified of a fire by the “siren system”. Mrs. Doris Green’s phone number was listed as the fire department. Mrs. Green lived at the corner of Main and Sunset. When she received a report of a fire she would hit the “fire switch” and sound the siren 3 times for in town calls and 4 times for out of town calls. The first firefighter to the station would call Mrs. Green to get information and would write it on a black board for the next incoming firefighters.

For over 80 years, Blowing Rock Fire Department has grown and changed with the community it serves. We value the citizens who call us their fire department and take pride in the service we offer.