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1955 GMC Pumper: Chip Lytle brings a veteran fire truck back to factory condition!

Chip Lytle epitomizes the term “aficionado” when it comes to vintage fire apparatus. Working at his garage in Middletown, Ohio, where I interviewed him for this story, his passion for everything related to vintage fire apparatus is evident. Chip always has a smile on his face and a story to tell about firefighting or fire apparatus.

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Pottsville

Long before I started writing this column, when work permitted, I was out shooting photographs of what I considered to be historic firehouses. As the light faded at the end of the day, I would rush back to wherever I was laying my head, so I could view what I captured. As the years passed and I continued to pursue my passion, I began to feel differently about the firehouses.

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Chicago

Chicago has or has had more than 200 firehouses. It took Ken Little, a retired Chicago Fire Dept. senior alarm room operator, and Father John McNalis, Chicago Fire Dept. chaplain, four massive volumes to craft their definitive History of Chicago Firehouses.

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Navy Surplus Seagrave: This 1943 Seagrave was Prince George County’s first fire truck!

History saturates Prince George County, Virginia, like water saturates the earth below the James and Appomattox rivers bordering it. Established in 1703, Prince George witnessed the American Revolution and the Civil War, as well as the impacts of two world wars and other conflicts. It is also home to the Fort Lee United States Army post (previously known as Camp Lee).

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Unit 3: Chatham’s 1941 Pirsch-International Aerial Ladder Truck

Many fire departments in the United States and Canada maintain antique fire apparatus. These provide a colorful connection to the past and typically are used for parades, public relations, and education. One of the most unusual and beloved of these is a 1941 Pirsch-International Harvester service aerial ladder truck that is owned by the Chatham-Kent Fire & Emergency Services in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.

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It’s Here to Help: 1949 Chevrolet 3100 “Plug Buggy”

While the Advanced Design-era (1947–1953) “Thriftmaster” is fairly common in the world of vintage vehicles, in 1996 Braun and Healy flew from New York to British Columbia, Canada, to see a rare variation. In our featured 3100’s early life, an unknown fire department near Vancouver converted it to an improvised fire apparatus, a specialized type of support vehicle called a “plug buggy.”

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Synergy and the Volunteer: 1970 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance

Some call it synergy when the sum seems greater than the parts. Chocolate and peanut butter combined are better than either of them alone. Laurel and Hardy together are funnier than either would be on his own. Likewise, in an example more pertinent to Vintage Fire Truck & Equipment magazine, when A.J. Miller Co., Meteor Motor Car Co., and the Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors got together to make ambulances in the early 1950s, the result was pure synergy.

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Alfco’s Type 31 Front-Drive Aerials

By 1915, the epic transition from horse-drawn fire apparatus to motor-driven vehicles had shifted into high gear. Fire departments across North America were ordering motor fire apparatus as fast as municipal budgets would allow. Fire horses were being retired and—literally—put out to pasture by the hundreds. After more than a half-century, the glamorous horse-drawn era—and that of the steam fire engine that spawned it—was fast coming to a close.

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A Mustang for New Berlin: George Kirkham’s 1975 IH Pierce Mini-Pumper

George Kirkham owns Southland International Truck Ltd., which is in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The company sells and services large medium- and severe-duty trucks with a specialty in Navistar International Corp. products. It is obvious to any who knows Kirkham that he likes his job, but his passion is oldinternationaltrucks.ca, the successful web-based company he started.

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San Francisco Steamer: This 1899 Metropolitan First Size steam fire engine is drenched with history!

Doug Blackburn feels a personal connection with the past each time he rereads a certain article from the Sunday, Dec. 23, 1900, edition of the San Francisco Call newspaper. It tells how the San Francisco Fire Dept.’s Engine Co. No. 17 responded to an alarm from its firehouse at 34 Mint Alley (now called Jesse Street) and how, under the power of three excited horses, a “First Size” 1899 Metropolitan steam fire engine led the way.

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Detroit

I have traveled to the Motor City every January for 15 years to attend Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. This event has given me an opportunity to pursue two interests. As a car guy, the obvious attraction is the hundreds of hot cars and trucks. My other passion is cutting cars.

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Westinghouse 1: This 1971 International Scout 800B has been called the “World’s Smallest Fire Truck!”

Doug Blackburn feels a personal connection with the past each time he rereads a certain article from the Sunday, Dec. 23, 1900, edition of the San Francisco Call newspaper. It tells how the San Francisco Fire Dept.’s Engine Co. No. 17 responded to an alarm from its firehouse at 34 Mint Alley (now called Jesse Street) and how, under the power of three excited horses, a “First Size” 1899 Metropolitan steam fire engine led the way.

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One Horsepower: Bill Rausch gave this 1910 McLaughlin carriage new life as a chief’s buggy!

Although largely forgotten today, Canada’s McLaughlin family was once a major force in the North American transportation industry. The 1910 buggy featured here sits squarely in the overlap between McLaughlin’s carriage production and its transformation to automobile manufacturing. Success in both pursuits made McLaughlin a vital component in General Motors of Canada’s birth.

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Emergency! The story behind TV’s Squad 51

Fans of Universal Studios’ television show Emergency! knew that any quiet time at the fictitious Los Angeles County Fire Dept. Station 51 would be short-lived. Suddenly, the alarm would scream out two tones, followed by the bellow of a claxon, and paramedics Johnny Gage (played by Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe), would jump into Squad 51 and leave in a big hurry.

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An Old Friend: Francis Glenn’s 1950 Bickle-Seagrave

Every time I see Francis Glenn’s gorgeous 1950 Bickle-Seagrave pumper at a fire engine show or muster, it is like meeting up with an old high school buddy. As a teenage fire buff living in Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit), I often chased Engine 3 to fires on my bicycle—the spillover from the truck’s booster tank an infallible indicator of which corner it had just turned.

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