A Case of the Blues? 1925 Seagrave 6WT

It was 1926 and, at an annual fire chiefs convention in Louisville, Kentucky, there sat the fire truck you see on these pages, except it was painted blue then. The current owner believes Seagrave Motor Fire Apparatus Co. of Columbus, Ohio, painted this 1925 Seagrave Standard (model 6WT, serial no. 41840) blue to commemorate its debut in the Bluegrass State. The Tampa (Florida) Fire Dept. purchased the 6WT and shipped it to its new home after the convention.

This was one of three Seagraves Tampa purchased that year. Tampa Fire Rescue would purchase its final two Seagraves in 1990, ending a 65-year relationship with the company.

The 1925 truck came equipped with a 6-cylinder, twin-camshaft, dual-ignition, “T-head” engine that displaced 1,012 cubic inches and produced 130 horsepower. By today’s standards, the 6-cylinder did not have a high output, but it would outwork any truck of its day. The truck came equipped with a single-stage, centrifugal, 750gpm pump with three 2-1/2-inch discharges. It was originally classified as a triple-combination pumper with a chemical tank; however, the chemical tank was replaced with a modest 90-gallon water tank. The truck also carried 1,200 feet of hose, a 24-foot wood extension ladder, a 10-foot roof ladder, pike poles, axes, extinguishers, booster hose with a nozzle, and a full complement of fire nozzles and other vital hand tools.

When it arrived at Station 4, the blue Seagrave was immediately placed into service. In 1935, firefighter Vernon Blunt painted it fire engine red, pinstriped it, and added 24-karat gold leaf. It took several weeks for Blunt to complete the work, but there was a sigh of relief from the crews that manned the truck. Blue just was not the traditional color of a fire truck back in the day, and the firefighters of Tampa were thrilled to see their 6WT sporting its new colors.

This 1925 has very special meaning to its current owner, Michael “Mike” Morris, a retired fire captain. The Seagrave and Captain Mike shared a lot at the start of his 29-year career with the Tampa Fire Dept. Morris became a firefighter in 1951 just as the Seagrave was retired. It went into reserve status, where it was used for training new recruits. This would be Morris’ first engine that he rode to his first fire as a recruit. In fact, the nozzle he used to fight that first fire sits proudly on the officer’s-side tail board. The Seagrave was also the first engine Morris drove to a fire in 1953.

In 1957, the city of Tampa offered the Seagrave for sale. Morris had his eye on the truck and vowed he would own it someday. Unfortunately, the Seagrave sold at auction while Morris and his wife, Volli “Ester” Morris, were on vacation. However, he found that a friend, retired United States Air Force Colonel Charles “Charlie” Hayes, had given the winning bid. Morris called Hayes and the two agreed that Morris would have the first chance at buying it.

Mike Morris received the MotoMeter from Millard Newman, a close friend who collected Rolls-Royce motorcars.

The colonel passed away in 1968, and Hayes’ widow offered it to Morris for $150, under the condition that he would never sell it. The Seagrave was in rough shape, having spent the previous 11 years in a barn, exposed to the elements. Nonetheless, Morrison jumped at the chance to own it.

As Morris began his restoration, parts of the truck were scattered throughout Tampa. Morris completed most of the restoration himself over a three-year period, but that was 48 years ago! Parts wear out over time, and finding replacement parts and people to work on them is equally hard. In 2014, two people who were instrumental in completing the engine and pump maintenance were Andre Milot and Bob Green of Andre’s Auto & Truck Services in Tampa. Morris said their mechanical expertise was second to none, and their help has been instrumental in keeping the Seagrave alive and well.

Morris’ son John has grown up in and around the fire service. When John was in elementary school, one early spring morning he developed the sudden desire to see his father. Knowing that his dad was working at a fire house that morning, John decided to pull the fire alarm box, which he knew would bring his dad to school. It was not the case, though. As several fire engines arrived at the school, not one of them brought with it John’s dad. He was working on the other side of town that shift, but rest assured—the chief made it a point to let Captain Morris know that little Johnny missed his father. Morris was gently reminded of this story by the guys at the fire house for the remainder of his career.

It is rare to see a booster hose cage.

The Morris family and the fire service have shared quite a bit of history. In 1884 Tampa’s first organized volunteer fire department began with nothing more than bucket brigades organized to serve the city. In 1895 the council members passed ordinance no. 307, creating Tampa’s first professional and paid fire department. TFD’s first chief was A.J. Harris, Morris’ uncle. In July of 1914, the horse-drawn engines were replaced with the first motorized engines. On the west side of Tampa, the West Tampa Fire Dept. was established in 1929. That department’s first fire chief was Morris’ father, George Morris.

As Morris was working on the Seagrave’s restoration, he was assigned to a fire boat as its captain. Tampa was buying a new fire boat and sent Morris to New Orleans to bring it home. While at the New Orleans Fire Dept.’s logistics warehouse, Morris talked to a supply officer about the Seagrave. The supply officer asked Morris if there was anything he needed that might help him finish his project.

The front wheel hides the speedometer drive gear.

Morris recalled answering, “Yeah, there are a few things I could use.”

With that, the doors to the warehouse were opened. Pike poles, nozzles, and axes were just a few of the things he saw and needed. The question was how to get them back to Tampa. Morris found the answer when he arrived at the new fire boat and readied it for a voyage to Tampa. He stepped below and there—stacked with extreme care—sat several items that he had seen at the warehouse.

Captain Morris retired from the department in 1979, and the truck now sits in Morris’ garage at home. I asked how long it took to restore the Seagrave. He looked at me for a minute, gathering his thoughts.

The answer I received was not one I was expecting.

“Well, Mark,” he said. “I can’t answer that because, to be honest, I’m not quite done yet. There will always be a part or two that I want and just can’t seem to find.”

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Four of a Kind: 1948 International LaFrance Thibault Tiller

People frequently use phases such as “one of a kind”, “one in a million,” or “in a class by itself.” Too often those statements are mere hyperbole and highly inaccurate. Such is not the case for our featured apparatus. This truck, from its inception, was truly one of a kind. Later in its life, it went through three major re-fittings and alterations that made it… four of a kind?

In 1931, the City of Verdun, Quebec, selected American LaFrance of Toronto, Ontario, to manufacture its new 75-foot, spring-loaded, wooden aerial ladder truck. Verdun was situated on the St. Lawrence River on the southeastern tip of Montreal Island and eventually included Ile Des Soeurs, or “Nun’s Island.” Settled in 1671, it became a strategic fortification to fend off frequent Iroquois attacks in the 1600s. By the early 20th century, Verdun had become a destination for those wanting to leave the urban center of Montreal. The 9.68-square kilometers (3.74 square miles) became a city in 1911. On Jan. 1, 2002, Verdun merged with Montreal and became a borough.

 First of a Kind

American LaFrance delivered its Type 331 single-chassis tiller to Verdun in February 1932. It was serial number 7445 and was the only truck of its kind ALF manufactured. Ladder 1 carried a 75-foot, clear-varnished, two-section aerial ladder made of Douglas fir. American LaFrance produced four similar trucks. One of the “close cousins” is a 1929 Type 231, which served Rapid City, South Dakota, and has since been restored. While this truck looks similar to Verdun’s Type 331, they are not the same. The 331 has dual ladder racks, which allow it to carry six ground ladders instead of three. According to noted fire truck historian Walter McCall, the Verdun ladder was powered by a 312A motor built by American LaFrance. The truck’s monster of an engine was a 740ci V-12 that generated 240 horsepower.

Something that ladder trucks of this type have in common is a tiller. Almost all conventional tiller trucks have an articulating tractor and trailer section. The driver steers the tractor and the tiller “weaves” the trailer through cars and around corners to make turns. On the Type 331, however, the tractor and the trailer are one unit and do not articulate. The truck essentially has two drivers, one at the front end and one at the rear, and an inattentive tillerman could wreak havoc on the driver by over-riding his steering commands.

Another interesting feature of the Type 331 tillerman’s position is the seat itself. On the original design, the seat was on top of the ladder, which extended far behind it. When the ladder needed to be raised, the tillerman would pull the pin on the right side of the seat, and the spring-loaded chair would pivot out of the way and lock in an “open” position on the driver’s side of the trailer. When the ladder was bedded, the tillerman would step on a button and the seat would release. It could then be rotated and locked into the driving position. The tillerman would also have to remove the steering wheel by means of a spring-loaded pin that would allow the wheel to lift off of the shaft splines. The wheel could then be hung on the side of the rig until needed. These features were retained on the tiller throughout its transformation, even though they were not needed.

 Second of a Kind

The City of Verdun used the truck as supplied by American LaFrance for 16 years, and in 1948 they sent it to Pierre Thibault of Pierreville, Québec, for extreme modifications to modernize the rig. Thibault had a long history, dating back to 1908, of building Canadian fire equipment when Charles (Pierre’s father) Thibault began making hand pumps. The company continued growing and moved into motorized fire equipment in 1918. Thibault gained a reputation for reliable fire equipment and extremely strong aerial ladders. (In 1963, the company staged a demonstration where it hung a Volkswagen Beetle from the tip of one of its aerials.) Today, the Thibault name still exists in Canada, even through the trials and tribulations of family feuds and bankruptcy.

Once at the Thibault shops, the cantankerous front-wheel-drive section was removed from just behind the driver’s bench. This included the front wheel and structure below the turntable. A gooseneck was fashioned onto the trailer for preparation to be joined with the tractor’s fifth wheel. The open lower frame was also enclosed with cabinetry to provide additional storage for equipment. New outriggers were also fitted to provide better stability during ladder operation. Aside from the gooseneck, outriggers, and the cabinetry, the remainder of the truck was essentially unchanged, including the original ground ladder racks and the 75-foot, spring-loaded, wooden ladder.

To propel this newly transformed tillered trailer, a 1948 International KBS-8 tractor was manufactured at the International Harvester plant in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. The year 1948 was important for International in Chatham. Along with manufacturing this tractor, the company also built a new 300,000-square-foot plant on Richmond Street West. The International Harvester Co. of Chicago, Illinois, began a relationship with Chatham in 1904 when it started negotiations with the Chatham Wagon Co. International saw the need to produce equipment in the Great White North and eventually purchased the Chatham Wagon Co. in 1910. Chatham Wagon Works had been producing wagons, carts, trucks, and sleighs since 1882, when a charter was granted to D.R. Van Allen under Chatham Mfg. Co. In 1896, the name changed to Chatham Wagon Co.

Pierre Thibault fabricated a new gooseneck to mate to the International tractor.

The KBS-8 tractor (chassis no. 1112) was an open-cab design, which afforded no protection to the Verdun firefighters from the harsh Canadian winters. The tractor is powered by a Red Diamond 450 engine (serial no. 23639). Fuel is delivered to the inline 6-cylinder engine by means of a two-barrel carburetor. The 450ci engine develops 134 horsepower at 2600 rpm. The Red Diamond family of engines helped the effort to win World War II by being used to power military trucks and half-tracks. The naturally aspirated gasoline engine is housed under a center-hinged butterfly hood. Power from the International engine is transferred by way of a Fuller 5A430, 5-speed transmission that provides torque to the rear wheels. The International tractor was also fitted with a lever on the floor of the cab to lock out the rear suspension play during ladder operations.

 Third of a Kind

The City of Verdun used the 1932/1948 American LaFrance/International in its second configuration until sometime in the early 1960s. Verdun, once again, sent the ladder truck to Pierre Thibault for a major refit. The spring-loaded 75-foot American LaFrance wooden ladder was removed and replaced with a new 75-foot ladder manufactured by Thibault. The new ladder was steel and operated through hydraulic cylinders and pumps. While the new ladder was the same length as the old when fully extended, it took up only about two-thirds of the bed when retracted. The previous aerial had been made in two sections that extended far beyond the rear of the trailer, while the new aerial was four sections and looked out of place when bedded. A windscreen was installed in front of the original tiller’s chair. Thibault finished off the modifications with a new paint job.

 

The tiller was more than 20 years old when it received yet another lease on life. The truck responded to scores of calls and fires, including the Richard Riot on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1955. The Richard Riot was the result of a National Hockey League (NHL) suspension of Maurice Richard. Richard was suspended for an on-ice incident where he violently struck an opposing player. Some felt the suspension was too severe and was motivated by Richard’s French Canadian background. The riot resulted in $100,000 in damage and 100 arrests. (The current owners of the truck are also quick to mention that it served in a firehouse near the childhood home of retired NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman. Bowman holds the NHL record for the most wins in the regular season with 1,244 wins. Remember, this truck is from Canada, where hockey is king.)

In the mid-to-late 1970s the truck was more than 40 years old and already past a normal retirement. Like most fire apparatus nearing the end of useful service life, the rig was placed into reserve status. It is interesting to note that the original 1932 American LaFrance was probably Verdun’s first motorized ladder truck. This truck had been altered and improved to last until Feb. 3, 1977, when it responded to its last call. Verdun’s front-line apparatus had been dispatched to a major fire at a Canadian Tire Store. At the same time, the 45-year-old reserve ladder truck responded to an apartment fire on the corner of Lesage and Church streets. Soon after the embers from that fire were extinguished, Verdun received delivery of a 1977 Mack Aerialscope—an 85-foot platform and one of only three delivered to Canada.

 Fourth of a Kind

To complete the purchase of the Mack Aerialscope, Verdun traded in the 1932/1948 American LaFrance/International to Thibault. Once at Thibault, the aerial ladder was removed, reconditioned, and reused on another piece of fire equipment. What could not be scavenged off the rig was left with it to rust and fade away in the Thibault boneyard. Like a dead elephant, it sat for several years and was even the habitat for a tree, which had grown up through it. The eventual demise of Thibault is complicated, but in the late 1980s Pierre Thibault declared bankruptcy. The enduring tiller looked as if it might actually be scrapped under the receivership’s axe.

Enter the Reg DeNure family. The DeNures of Chatham, Ontario, earned their livelihood providing a variety of bus services in and around the City of Chatham. On July 15, 1948, Ivan DeNure won a 10-year contract to provide bus service to Chatham under the name Chatham Coach Lines. The DeNures made the bus service a family legacy, which was passed on to sons Reg and Ken DeNure. They continued to grow the company and expanded into school bus, tour bus, and limousine services.

Reg DeNure is the proud owner of Really Big Red.

Reg DeNure bought the rig in 1985 for $500 and began the restoration process a few years later. Restoring the tiller was made easier by DeNure’s many years of experience working with commercial buses. Plus, the rig’s engine had fired after only minor repairs and a change of fluids. DeNure also had a full shop and experienced mechanics to complete the work. Once the truck was clear of the wrecker’s yard, DeNure had to fit a replacement aerial ladder. Luckily, a donor ladder was located at the same time he bought the tiller. It was a Toronto Fire Dept. 1952 American LaFrance 700 series, single-chassis 100-foot ladder truck.

The refurbished donor ladder is being delicately lifted into place by crane operator Floyd Lozon.

A crane lifted the new aerial into place. The 100-foot length of the new ladder fit better on the long bed of the trailer. The salvaged ladder has never been made operational. The original windscreen for the tillerman had to be modified to swing clear of the longer ladder. DeNure is quick to point out that it took 26 gallons of red paint to cover the rig. John VanDube’s steady hands applied the gold leaf and pinstriping.

For the finishing touch, VanDube added the name “Really Big Red,” since DeNure has a 1950 Bickle Seagrave 85-foot ladder truck that he named “Big Red.” The DeNures have shared Really Big Red with the Chatham community for the past 25 years. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for this enduring rig as it nears its 84th birthday.

 

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A Trip to Bothell, Washington

Bothell, Washington, is a primarily residential community located at the north end of Lake Washington. The Bothell City Fire Dept. operates together with King County Fire Protection District #42 and Snohomish County Fire Protection District #10 across the county line. The unified department is quite unusual in that it includes parts of two counties.

When I visited in 1988, Bothell operated out of three stations. Station 42 was located in the City of Bothell. Volunteer Station 43 was located east of Bothell, on the border with the City of Woodinville, which is in a different fire district. Station 45 was located in Snohomish County and covered the northern part of Bothell.

City of Bothell, 1961 Kenworth-Curtis-Heiser (serial no. H-174), 1500gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

King County Fire Protection District #42, 1964 Kenworth-Curtis-Heiser (serial no. H-184), 1500gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

The two oldest rigs in service when I visited were near-identical Kenworths. The 1961 model was in reserve for the city, while the 1964 ran out of the volunteer station near Woodinville. Both rigs had been delivered with 1091 Hall-Scott gas engines, and both had been re-powered with Detroit Diesels, most likely the 8V-71 model. Air-pack compartments had been added. The only differences I could spot were cab roof marker lights and an opticom strobe on the county rig. Both rigs had red flashers built in to the front bumper.

1978 Kenworth-Clark 1500gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

The second-out engine at the city station was a real oddball. It was built by Clark Fire Apparatus of Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a long wheelbase Kenworth W model conventional chassis. It had an integral rear-facing canopy cab that was built on to the back of the cab. Although powered by a Detroit Diesel 350hp 8V-71 engine, the rig was handicapped by a low-geared differential. The gearing was such that the top speed was rpm-limited to a pathetic 52mph. When responding on the highway, the driver was forced to shut off the warning equipment, as the rig couldn’t keep up with traffic!

1980 Ford C-8000-Western States (serial no. 928), 1000gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

Also at the city station was District 42’s other pumper. Engine 41 was built on a 225hp Caterpillar-Diesel-powered Ford C-8000 tilt-cab chassis. Similar to other Fords, the four-digit model number meant diesel power. Bodywork was built by Western States of Cornelius, Oregon, a popular builder in Oregon and Washington. Western States is not to be confused with Westates Fire Apparatus of Woodland, California. Twin Beacon-Rays were paired with twin electronic sirens on the roof.

1988 Seagrave model HB50DH (serial no. W-79829), 1500gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

Bothell was operating two near-identical late-model Seagrave pumpers. Operating out of the Snohomish County FPD #10 station was Engine 45, a 1985 Seagrave (not pictured). The Bothell City station was running a brand-new 1988 Seagrave HB model as Engine 42. Powered by a Detroit Diesel 8V-92 TA engine, this motor had a displacement of 736 cubic-inches! Featuring a Q-siren, Federal light bar, and a top-mount hose reel, the new rig was sharp looking and well equipped.

1988 Seagrave model WR79DH rear-mount 100-foot aerial (serial no. V-75567).

After many years of operating with no ladder truck, Bothell had finally been able to add one. This was necessary to provide protection for business parks and an upcoming expansion of the University of Washington, Bothell Campus. The new ladder truck was built by Seagrave on the low-profile W series chassis, which used a full-width low cab. The aerial was a 100-foot rear-mount model. Unfortunately, the aerial failed shortly after delivery, and the near-new Seagrave operated for several months as a city-service ladder truck. The serious failure of the aerial prompted the replacement of this rig with a new Sutphen ladder truck after little more than a dozen years.

Bill Hattersley

 

A Visit To Burien, Washington

By Bill Hattersley

The town of Burien, Washington, borders the southwest side of Seattle. For many years, Burien was a part of unincorporated King County. During the 1990s, Burien became an incorporated city. Fire protection was provided by King County Fire Protection District #2. There were three stations in the district. When I visited in 1983, only one station was manned, while the other two were manned by volunteers.

Burien was a faithful user of Curtis-Heiser bodies. For many years, they favored the New England-based Maxim Corp. for custom chassis rigs.

1959 Ford C-900 Curtis-Heiser (serial no. H-160), 1250gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

Burien’s reserve rig was an early quad-headlight Ford C Series tilt-cab chassis with a Curtis-Heiser body. L.N. Curtis was a west coast fire equipment distributer who sold Maxim apparatus and Hale pumps. George Heiser Body of Seattle was a fabricator of many types of truck bodies. From late 1958 through the late 1970s, Curtis and Heiser collaborated on the sale, design, and construction of over 50 pieces of fire apparatus, nearly all for departments in Western Washington. Burien’s Ford was one of the first such rigs built. The most obvious feature of this rig was the extreme lowness of the bodywork. This was apparently intended to reduce upper body strain to firefighters pulling or reloading equipment and hose. A secondary benefit was greater stability when operating on side-slopes. Power was provided by a big Ford 534 cubic-inch gas V-8, the only Ford engine powerful enough to run the big 1250gpm pump.

1959 Maxim F model (serial no. 2178), Curtis-Heiser body, 1250gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

Engine 3 was running with a Maxim F model chassis rig with a Curtis-Heiser body virtually identical to the one on the Ford C pumper. This rig most likely was powered by the standard Waukesha 817 cubic-inch gas six. Note that Curtis-Heiser rigs built on commercial chassis received a serial number with an H for Heiser, followed by a three-digit sequence number. Curtis-Heiser bodies built on Maxim custom chassis carried the four-digit Maxim serial number and had no separate Curtis-Heiser number. For this reason, it is difficult to calculate how many total rigs were built. To further muddy the waters, L.N. Curtis also collaborated with Earl Sherman Bodyworks in Oakland, California, in building fire apparatus. The Sherman-built Curtis rigs carry an S prefix with three numbers following.

1968 Maxim F model (serial no. 2636), Curtis-Heiser body, 1750gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

Burien received two more Maxim-Curtis-Heiser pumpers in 1968. Carrying Maxim serial numbers 2635 and 2636, these two rigs were almost indistinguishable from the 1959 model. However, there was a big difference under the hood; the new rigs were powered by Detroit Diesel 8V-71 350hp engines. The two new Maxims were assigned to HQ Engine 2 and Engine 4 (pictured).

1969 Maxim F model (serial no. 2637), Curtis-Heiser body, mid-ship 100-foot Maxim aerial.

The last Curtis-Heiser rig purchased by Burien was ordered at the same time as the two 1968 pumpers but was not delivered until 1969. Ladder 2 was another Maxim F model. The aerial was mounted on the cab-chassis unit at the Maxim factory in Middleboro, Massachusetts, while the body work was designed by L.N. Curtis and built by Heiser Body. Also powered by a Detroit Diesel 8V-71 engine, Burien’s ladder is believed to be the only Curtis-Heiser-built ladder truck on a Maxim chassis. The big Maxim remained in front-line service until being replaced by a Pierce-Arrow 105-foot quint in 1994.

1983 GMC “TopKick”-FMC, 1000gpm pump, 500-gallon water tank.

In 1983, Burien purchased a “midi” or “attack” pumper. Intended for much the same purpose as a “mini” pumper, this type of rig carried a 1000gpm pump and a full-size water tank. Intended for use on car fires and at locations with tight access, midi-pumpers were popular in the 1980s. Since L.N. Curtis had become the Northwest distributer for FMC Fire Apparatus in 1980, Curtis had a small part in this rig.

In 1986, Burien re-equipped with three Spartan-Darley pumpers. Switching over to two pumpers and a quint-aerial, Burien now operates a 1994 Pierce quint aerial and two 2001 Spartan-H&W engines.

The Sounds Of Thunder

Pictured here is “Chubby” a white Percheron, who was one of the last fire horses to be retired from Engine Company No. 6 in Rochester, New York, in 1926.

The sounds of thunder used to accompany the fire brigade on every call, back when horses did all of the pulling work.

You probably have never given much thought to one of the most romantic eras taking place in the early history of the fire service. To me, that would have been in the mid-1800s through the 1920s. The era I speak of is the era of the “fire horse.”

Can you imagine standing alongside a brick-paved road as the thundering sounds of hooves hammered the bricks? The sound of an approaching team of horses racing toward a fire while pulling an early steam engine with a firefighter at the reins must have been a sight to behold.

Originally, fire wagons were pulled by the firefighters themselves, but a more efficient way of moving those wagons was needed. Think of it. Firefighters have just pulled a wagon an untold distance to a fire as fast as they can, and now they need to perform their firefighting duties. Hence, horses were brought into the fire service to pull the hose wagons and engines as the weight of these early pieces of fire apparatus became heavier with additional equipment and more modern pumps. The first recorded use of a fire horse was in 1832, just prior to the Civil War, by the New York Mutual Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1.

Fire horses would eventually be placed in stalls within the firehouse itself. They were trained to leave their stalls and move to their position in front of the fire wagon at the sound of the alarm. Firefighters would then hitch them to the wagon, and off they would go. As time passed, speed harnesses would be developed, allowing the team and wagon to be out the door in less than 30 seconds from the time of the bell.

The horses picked for this noble duty were carefully selected for their temperament and size. They were often a matched team weighing in at 1,100 pounds for hose wagons, 1,400 pounds for steam engines, and a heavyweight class for pulling the hook and ladder. The training of a fire horse could last up to two years before they were placed in to service. The Percheron was one of the most used breeds, being known for strength and athletic abilities. The horses would serve between four and eight years before their retirement.

Although horses are no longer utilized in today’s modern fire service, they served a vital role in their day, and they have not been forgotten. If you ever get to tour one of the country’s older fire houses and notice a set of doors above the bay floor, chances are those doors lead to the old hayloft. Even though you won’t find horses in the bay, their presence can still be felt.

Seagrave Fire Apparatus

Seagrave and Co. was founded in 1881 in Detroit, Michigan, by Frederic Seagrave. The company originally built ladders for the orchard industry when local firefighters asked for apparatus that could transport their fire ladders safely. Seagrave produced horse-drawn carts designed to carry ladders and further developed hose wagons. In 1891, the Seagrave Corp. was formed.

In 1963, Seagrave was acquired by the FWD Corp., and corporate headquarters were relocated to Clintonville, Wisconsin. Today, the Seagrave group is a flagship company of ELB Capital Management. Seagrave operates two plants—one in Clintonville and the other in Rock Hill, South Carolina—and also supplies the federal government with firefighting equipment. In addition, Seagrave refurbishes its older fire pumpers and brings them up-to-date to meet current National Fire Protection Assoc. requirements.

Seagrave is currently the longest-running manufacturer of fire pumpers, rescue units, and aerial apparatus. One of the country’s largest fire departments, Fire Dept. of New York (FDNY), uses the Seagrave apparatus line almost exclusively. Seagrave remains a mainstay of many fire departments throughout the country.

Here are some videos showing the legendary Seagrave products in action.

1927 Seagrave

1936 Bickle Seagrave

1957 Seagrave Pumper

 

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