“I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.”
Let’s pause to remember the magic of our first fire engines. My old volly department just got approval on Tuesday night to purchase a new pumper. The city appropriated $480k and is applying for a grant to supplement that. The specs are being written for a Pierce with a side-mount Waterous, a red line, and no CAFS. This will be the first new apparatus purchased since 2001 for this small department. The chief is an old Chicago buff, so the trucks have black tops and green lights on the front.
This is the department where I got my start and the trucks there have some special meaning for me. I learned to drive stick on this 1969 Ford C-800/Ward LaFrance:
She had a 1,000 gpm Hale two-stage pump with a 750 gal. tank, a double clutch transmission, and drum brakes. Odd fact: because there were no air brakes, there was no air compressor, which meant the air horns were powered by an SCBA cylinder. That thing is probably rusting in a field somewhere right now. A local resident bought it to donate to the tiny VFD that protected her ranch.
The engine being replaced is this 1989 Pierce Dash:
That’s the rehabbed look. When I came in it was in its original configuration:
This truck has a 1,250 gpm Waterous with a 750 gal. tank and a Cat engine.
These trucks were magical. I’d spent my whole childhood admiring fire engines and running to the window whenever I heard a siren outside. These were fire trucks I got to play with! I can still, 12 years on, smell the inside of these trucks on a hot, darkening summer evening as I learned a new language. The fire service was like a whole other world unfolding before my young imagination.
This was the truck that came in 2001 that will now be the second-out:
That’s a 2001 Pierce Saber with the same specs as the Dash, except the engine is a Detroit instead of a Cat. Here it is on delivery day:
The local park has made unique use of the original fire engine that served the city from 1936 until the early 1970s. This is a 1936 Seagrave Suburbanite on an REO chassis that was bought new when the city was laid out and built by a developer:
It’s sad what they’ve done to that beautiful truck, but I guess it’s better than the scrapper would have.