a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, June 7, 2009

This old brush truck is a keeper

Charlie Ward admires his 1955 Willys Jeep fire truck.

Members of a tiny fire department in Webster, Pa., didn’t want to forever part with their 30-year-old Willys Jeep brush truck when they retired it in 1985.

So they stored the 1955 1-ton truck in a garage until the right person came along to put the tiny vehicle back on the road.

Vintage fire truck enthusiast Charlie Ward, who lives nearby, took possession of the Jeep for a dollar after it sat under roof for 18 years. Part of the deal requires him to offer the truck back to the Rostraver Township Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 in Webster for the cost of his repairs should he ever decide to put it up for sale.

“It’s one of America’s first brush trucks,” Ward says. “It’s the oldest fire truck still in operation in Rostraver Township.”

The fire department purchase it for $8,700 from Buck’s Garage in Webster at a time when fires often swept through Buffalo grass that had spread across the hills above the village about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. The grass was the first vegetation to reappear on the hillsides after a heavily polluting zinc mill closed in nearby Donora. Webster needed such a 4-wheel-drive pumper truck to reach those fast-moving fires on the steep hills above the Monongahela River.

The truck was equipped with a 226 cubic inch super hurricane engine and a 200 gallon water holding tank. When connected to a larger water source, the pump had the ability to spew 500 gallons a minute.

The pump no longer works because it cracked from frozen water that was left inside the assembly over a winter. Ward said he chose to keep the pump as is rather than replace it with a modern version that would not match the truck’s original appearance.

Most of the green paint and hand-painted lettering on the vehicle is original. There were just 50 vehicles of this model produced, and Ward surely has one of the sharpest of them still moving.

1 comment:

Willys fire said...

As a fellow willys fire truck owner I would like to offer that pump parts are still available through the manufacturer... Waterous in Minnesota I know this because I had to buy new seals and they informed me that all parts are still available.

G. Dreyer
Grand Rapids, Mi