Jack Harrison, Editor

Hi, I’m Jack Harrison, editor-in-chief of Vintage Fire Truck & Equipment.  VFT&E is a premium magazine for everyone who loves the honor, history, and horsepower of everything within the fire service.  We offer subscriptions for a physical magazine, delivered to your home and office, as well as premium content right here on the website.  Each article has the same photographs found inside the magazine throughout the article, as well as in a photo gallery at the bottom of each online article.  Soon, we will be offering a Premium Membership, so you can enjoy the community of fellow members who love antique fire equipment as much as you.  For right now, you can purchase individual articles for only $5 by clicking on the button found at the beginning of the article.  Thank you so much for your support.

 

 

 

Plugs and Pipes

The fire service is filled with many historical facts, and none are more interesting than the impressive feat of getting water to the scene of a fire.

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Wooden Fireman

This 7-foot tall, carved wooden fireman may look like a statue that commemorates the deeds and sacrifices of firemen.

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A Truck of Many Colors

There have been many builders of fire apparatus throughout the United States. Among the big, well-known companies are American LaFrance, Mack, Pierce, and E-One. On the list of smaller companies is Imperial Fire Apparatus.

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The Bug: Reg DeNure’s Fargo Flying Squad

Most of the present members of the Windsor (Ontario) Fire and Rescue Services do not recognize the diminutive nickname, but just mention “The Bug” to any longtime Windsor Fire Dept. retiree, and you will likely trigger a wry grin—and a slew of great...

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Racine

Racine’s fire protection began with some intrepid volunteers. In 1879, the city hired its first full-time chief and steam engine drivers. By 1894 the department had a full-time staff.

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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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An Iowa in Oregon: This photo fires up my curiosity!

In the world of fire memorabilia collecting, one of the most valuable firefighting tools has been mostly forgotten. There has long been love for fire steamers and engines, fire marks, fire helmets, and other paraphernalia, but the fire hydrant has not had much appreciation.

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Fire Apparatus of Colfax and Palouse, Washington

The small city of Colfax, Washington, is located about 50 miles south of Spokane on Highway 195. As the county seat of Whitman County, Colfax is a center of government activity. Whitman County is primarily a farming area, best known as the second-largest...

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Buffalo Diary: Restoration of the 1931 Reading Buffalo

The truck was one of two engines that ran out of Reading, Pennsylvania, Liberty Hose Co. No. 5. I had seen pictures of it—in fact a very nice picture was included in my book Buffalo Fire Appliance Corp.: An Illustrated History. I could not bear for it to be destroyed, and so began a seven-year project that is nearing completion.

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1918 Ahrens-Fox K-34: A champagne fire engine on a beer budget

Bellevue had austere beginnings, but it grew quickly from the prosperity of the river region. With the town in need of fire protection, the Peerless Fire Co. was created with 30 or so volunteers. It used the city’s first piece of firefighting equipment—a hand-drawn “hose and reel”—and was housed near Center Street and Lafayette Avenue.

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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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Mill Truck: This 1936 Chevrolet is a low-mile barn find!

Precious few cities still own the very first piece of fire apparatus used in service to the community, but Kings Mountain, North Carolina, is a welcome exception. In the days before the city officially created its fire department in 1931, the first fire department location was actually a shed in the middle of town that housed a 1927 hose cart.

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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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Centralia and Chehalis, Washington

In 1970, I moved from Eastern Washington with my parents to the Olympia area for my senior year of high school. I became familiar with the Centralia-Chehalis area while attending Centralia Community College for two years.

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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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Massachusetts Maxim: Doug Boudrow’s 1974 Maxim Pumper

Doug Boudrow, a career firefighter outside of Boston, is proud of his beautiful 1974 Maxim F Model pumper, both as a vintage engine and a piece of New England history. To countless firefighters and apparatus collectors, the word “Maxim” inspires a respect bordering on reverence

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Now That’s a Mini-Pumper! Bob McClain’s 1980 Scat Fire Truck

When Bob McClain of Germantown, Ohio, displays the specialized vintage fire apparatus seen on these pages, people stop and gawk. They ask him, “What is it?” With dimensions of approximately 4×11-1/2 feet, this 1980 mini-pumper is almost guaranteed to be the smallest and most unusual fire truck they have ever seen.

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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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The Spirit of Seattle: This 1946 pumper is all Kenworth!

Disaster literally came out of the blue on Aug. 13, 1951, in the industrial south side of Seattle, Washington. Moments after a Boeing B-50 Superfortress bomber took off from Boeing Field to test some equipment at about 2:15 p.m., eyewitnesses saw and heard the big bomber laboring to gain altitude.

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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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Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Co.

Time is always the enemy when fire, the helpful servant, breaks out of our control and turns against us. As fire passes through its stages of growth, it can double in size every minute, recklessly consuming everything in its path.

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York, Pennsylvania Firehouse

I find old, musty, turn-of-the-century firehouses fascinating. Once inside, I like to imagine the day when horses, steamers, hose carts, and ladder trucks were quartered inside the hallowed walls. They could be simple clapboard barns or elaborate architectural wonders—it does not seem to matter.

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The First Rescue Rig: FDNY’s 1914 Cadillac set the bar high!

It had been 50 years since hand pumpers gave way to steam. Internal combustion engines were replacing horses. Reliable gasoline power now cost less than real “horse power.” Fire apparatus still gleamed and belched smoke, but the sound of galloping horses was drifting into history.

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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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Enclosed Cab: Detroit’s Seagrave Safety Sedan Pumpers

Just getting to the fire has always been one of the most dangerous aspects of the firefighter’s job. Well into the 1950s, firefighters typically rode the tailboard of the pumper or hose wagon or hung off the side of the hook and ladder or aerial truck as it sped to the fire.

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Grasshopper: 1967 Ford Bronco Grass Fire Unit

Dancing across the grass, leaping from flame to flame, pausing momentarily before bounding onward… These visuals do not describe the way most firefighting machines operate. The 1967 Ford Bronco pictured here, however, is not your standard piece of fire apparatus.

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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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Louisville Fire Dept. 1892 Hale Water Tower

If Jules Verne, author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and other fantastic stories, ever designed a piece of fire equipment, it would certainly look like the 1892 Hale Water Tower that served the Louisville (Kentucky) Fire Dept. for 74 years.

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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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Black Diamond In The Rough: 1947 Ford Fire Truck

Little goes unnoticed in the small town of Black Diamond, Washington, in the foothills of the Cascade Range. One day in 2012, a girl named Ashley Armstrong was riding in the car with her grandmother when she saw a flatbed truck from a wrecking yard hauling a piece of local history—a 1947 Ford fire engine she had seen in photos at the Black Diamond Museum.

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Diamond City Mack: Wilkes-Barre Truck 6

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is named for British Parliamentarians John Wilkes and Isaac Barre—supporters of colonial America prior to and during the Revolutionary War—and its “Diamond City” nickname is a nod to the region’s abundant deposits of anthracite coal.

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