Saving the history of firefighting: Old trucks, devices on display in Manassas, elsewhere | Securities
A pink-red and gray metal bucket with a rounded bottom hangs from an iron hook at the Manassas Volunteer Fire Company Museum.
In black capital letters, it bears the word “FIRE”. Due to its rounded bottom, it tilts and spills its contents if you try to stand it upright. The bucket has this design to deter theft, in case a 1941 firefighter leaves it unattended. It is one of hundreds of firefighting artifacts on display in the museum by the company, established in 1892.
There’s more: a 1940s breathing apparatus to survive in a smoky building and several alarms from the days before the siren. In 1910, a firefighter depressed a foot pedal on the floor of a 1909 Howe truck to sound a gong.
How to catch the victims jumping from burning buildings? There is a rescue net with a red dot that, ideally, the panicked jumper would fall safely. There is also a Stokes basket, an elongated wire mesh-type “stretcher” for evacuating people.
Fire engine fans
The Old Dominion Historical Fire Society (ODHFS) is committed to preserving the history of fire services. Members collect and maintain firefighting records, photographs, artifacts, memorabilia, user manuals, appliances and fire trucks. Many collectors maintain their trucks themselves.
Firefighters, former firefighters and fire engine enthusiasts participate in more than 200 events each year, such as the Berryville, Leesburg and Purcellville Christmas parades, the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival and the “Pride and Polish Day” near Richmond. During the COVID-19 pandemic, members held drive-thru events, like July 4 parades in cities as people cheered from their front yards.
They compete in fire truck rodeos, competitions in which drivers maneuver their shiny behemoths around orange cones and are timed for their efficiency and driving skill.
Founded in 1978, the society has approximately 300 members and collectors throughout Virginia. The organization is a chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America.
Tommy Herman, its chairman, is a retired Richmond firefighter who owns 20 working rigs housed in a barn he has enlarged twice.
“Collecting fire trucks is a disease,” he laughs. “My wife calls them my children.
Gems of Manassas
The volunteer guides at the Manassas Volunteer Fire Company Museum are happy to outline the unique details of each of their four antique fire trucks. The 1909 Howe had a 25 horsepower gasoline engine to run the pump, but the truck was horse drawn. Its predecessor trucks had hand pumps. The pipe trolley is attached to it and a lantern hanging from the side allows you to look inside the buildings.
Nearby shine two Buffalo Triple Combination Pumps, a 1929 and a 1947. The Buffalo 1929, Prince William County’s first fully motorized fire truck, had a 50 gallon water tank, and the 1947 Buffalo had a tank. of 200 gallons. Today’s fire trucks can typically carry 750 gallons of water.
The 1929 truck has no roof, windshield or doors. The 1947 truck has it all.
The still running ‘modern’ 1966 Seagrave was ‘ready to go’. Without a roof, firefighters could have a 360-degree view. It has a manual transmission and a clutch unlike today’s fire trucks, which have automatic transmissions.
Brush trucks and more
Rocky Keplinger, owner of Keplinger Repair Department in Round Hill in Loudoun County, says he “can’t get enough” of fire and rescue vehicles, as his company specializes in repair and restoration .
In business for 35 years, Keplinger provides expert chassis component repairs, electrical work, body repairs, preventative maintenance, tool assembly and more. It is a staple at trucking shows and company events.
Other enthusiasts, like Frank Hoppes, collect brush trucks, which have a spray boom in the front to fight fires in fields or forests. Hoppes first volunteered at the age of 16, served in the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire Company, and headed the Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department before becoming the Middleburg Police Chief. He owns five trucks, including a 1973 Ford F-250a brush truck built by Stinebaugh that holds 200 gallons of water and is made of aluminum, unlike most steel trucks.
“I can keep the fire trucks or sit in a bar,” he joked. “Collecting fire trucks is not so dangerous. “
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 edition of the Piedmont Virginian, published by InsideNoVa.