When motorized vehicles first appeared at the turn of the last century, it didn’t take long to adapt the technology to fire apparatus. In fact, the earliest motorized vehicles in fire departments were actually runabouts, or standard production model automobiles, assigned to chief officers. It soon became clear that there many advantages to using motorized vehicles, including durability (horses tired when forced to run long distances) and economical (motorized vehicles were less expensive to operate). Nevertheless, some firefighters were reluctant to adopt the new vehicles, remaining loyal to their horse-drawn apparatus. It took many years for the switch to occur nationwide. Here are a few highlights of that time period.
- In 1906, Waterous delivered a motorized pumper, equipped with two gasoline-powered motors, one for propulsion and the other for pumping, to the Radnor Fire Company of Wayne, Pennsylvania.
- In 1906, the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, purchased a Combination Ladder Company squad body constructed on a Knox chassis.
- By the end of 1906, Knox and Combination Ladder Company, originally a manufacturer of horse-drawn apparatus, advertised an assortment of motorized apparatus for fire departments.
- In 1909, the Tea Tray Company manufactured the first triple combination pumper on an American Mors chassis. It included a pump, hose bed and chemical tanks. Prior to this, most had operated as two-piece companies, using both a steamer and a separate hose wagon.
- In 1909, the International Motor Company (now Mack Trucks) delivered a motorized tractor to Allentown, Pennsylvania that may have been the country’s first ladder truck. It was used to power a ladder truck that up until then had been horse-drawn.
- In 1910, American LaFrance manufactured a combination chemical hose wagon for Lenox, Massachusetts.
- In 1911, Ahrens-Fox introduced a motorized pumper with the piston pump located at the front of the vehicle. This was in stark contrast to similar vehicles that stored the pump either under or behind the driver’s seat.
- In 1912, Christie Front Drive Auto Company started to manufacture two-wheel tractors that were used to motorize fleets of horse-drawn steamers, ladder trucks and water towers. This market, which lasted about 10 years, made it possible for fire departments to continue to use their horse-drawn apparatus during the interim time period.
- During the 1920s, the quad came into being. It was a stretched triple combination pumper chassis that also carried ground ladders. This provided an option for fire departments that didn’t need to service high buildings, allowing them to save on the purchase of a ladder truck.
- In 1928, Pirsch introduced the first custom-built enclosed cab fire apparatus for the city of Monroe, Wisconsin. Considered to be ahead of its time, these did not replace open-cab pumpers until the 1950s.
Pictured above is a horse-drawn steam fire engine made in Seneca Falls, New York in 1896 from the American Museum of Natural History website.
Allen Rom is the Senior Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast states of VA, NC, SC, GA and FL. He also handles most of the export business for Fire-Dex. Most people, who know Fire-Dex, know Allen Rom. He can be seen visiting current dealers, calling directly on Fire Departments and attending trade shows and conferences.
We recently interviewed Allen and received many lively responses! Enjoy and the next time you see Allen at your firehouse, tradeshow or dealer, be sure to say hi. He likes chatting with anyone associated with the fire world.
What is your best advice to Fire-Dex clients?
“Learn about the different materials and features and options Fire-Dex offers. Don’t accept what some dealer keeps in stock for some city 200 miles away. Buy what’s right for your department.”
How is Fire-Dex better than their competitors?
- Construction. Gear is put together very well. Lockstitch sewing, double-felled double needled seams, etc.
- Options. 90% of the gear that leaves Fire-Dex is built for a specific fire department. They get to select materials, closures, pockets, reinforcements and most importantly sizes that are right for them and their department.
- Ease of doing business. Our people are approachable, responsible and, most importantly, available.
- Fun. We have fun doing business and that is reflected in our dealer base. Without a strong – successful – happy dealer base, we are nowhere.
Tell us 3 things people don’t know about you.
- I had a scholarship offer to play football at Kenyon College.
- I am a huge fan of James Bond, all action movies and Howard Stern. My honeymoon was in Jamaica, We went to Ian Fleming‘s home, GoldenEye.
- I had the second lead in high school music. I know, you can laugh now. J
What are your hobbies and interests?
- Anything with the family.
- Movies and TV: Entourage. Rescue Me. This Old House.
- Driving rental cars.
Last weekend, Dee O’Callaghan of the Fire-Dex Accounting Department and her husband, Rick, took a short road trip to her sister’s hometown in DeGraff, Ohio to support their local firehouse. The DeGraff Fire Department was hosting their second annual 5K Fun Run/Walk.
Dee said, “It was a privilege for us not only because of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the fallen heroes that were remembered, but DeGraff Fire Department wears Fire-Dex gear proudly!”
Congratulations to the DeGraff FD on a successful event and to Dee and Rick. They both finished third in their age groups in the 5K Run.