By Ron Heal
Wayne Black is a captain on the Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department. He has seen many changes in the growing fire department during his 35 years of service. One big area of change is the fire apparatus that is used on the job.
Black first came on as a member of the Kempsville (VA) Volunteer Fire Department. That volunteer group was absorbed into the growing city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Today the city of approximately 800,000 people is served by 20 fire stations and a compliment of more than 500 fire personnel. Wayne recalls the first fire engine he was assigned to drive—a 1969 Young Crusader pumper.
The Young Fire Equipment Corporation built fire apparatus for 60 years from 1932 until 1991. Their rigs were built in Lancaster, New York, a Buffalo suburb. Leo Duliba and Tom Shand combined to write a soft cover photo archive on Young Fire Equipment several years ago, illustrating the variety of fire apparatus that the company turned out over its 60-year production run. Young Equipment may be best remembered for its distinctive Crusader and Crusader ll custom apparatus built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The low-profile cabs and “Wayne Bus” style teardrop two-piece windshield made a Young Crusader easy to identify back in that era. Pumpers and aerial models both featured the distinctive cab.
The Kempsville pumper stood out even more in an all-white coat of paint. The Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department would run the 671 Detroit Diesel powered rig until 1991, first as a front-line pumper and then later as a spare pumper. In 1992, Virginia Beach sold the rig to the Cove (OR) Rural Fire District. The rig made a cross-country trip to its new home. The department modified the unit, making it a pumper-tanker, installing a 1,800-gallon water tank. The rig also got a coat of yellow paint. Cove Fire District would continue to operate the rig until retiring it in 2011.
At an apparatus age of more than 40 years, this could have been the end for the Crusader. Instead, retired Cove Chief Sonny Johnson thought the rig may have some collector value or be returned to the department that had sold the rig to them. He picked up the phone and called back east to Virginia Beach. Was there any interest in having a unique piece of fire apparatus go back home?
Johnson’s phone call would somehow get routed to Black. Yes, he had many memories of the old rig and he was interested. A $500 donation to Cove Rural Fire district was just the beginning, but the rig now belonged to Black. Next was arranging transport back to Virginia. The cost for that was quite a bit higher as the bill would amount to $5,000. The move was completed during the summer of 2014, and everything went surprisingly well for yet another cross-county run.
Black relates a story that goes back to much earlier days when the rig was still in service with Virginia Beach. A group decided the rig needed some upgrades and were in the process of acquiring parts for the upgrade to take place. One item black had found was a complete teardrop replacement windshield. Wayne travelled a distance to make the purchase, brought the two pieces back to Virginia Beach, and for some reason never installed the parts. When the rig went to Cove and the water tank was being modified to make the unit a pumper-tanker, the shop doing the work learned that black had a complete windshield. They made early attempts to purchase the windshield in case they might need that item during the modifications. As the work progressed it turned out that they needed both windshields to repair damage. Black sold them the windshield on the condition that a driver come and take the important cargo direct to the Oregon shop. Now Black has his windshield back!
Now the rig is undergoing some additional restoration to bring the pumper back as close as possible to the earlier times. This will include a new coat of white paint and reinstalling the correct emergency lights, Federal Q siren, and various fire tools and equipment to make the rig complete. Black will not change out the larger water tank. That becomes too large a project, and it only adds a few inches in height to the overall appearance of the fire body. Black was able to modify a garage building at his home to store the rig indoors. He has also had good luck finding needed pieces for the restoration. Recently he joined the Old Dominion Historical Fire Society, the Virginia Chapter of the national SPAAMFAA group that promotes vintage fire service apparatus. Wayne plans to complete the restoration for the summer of 2015. Then he will be able to participate in local and regional fire shows and parades. There is no shortage of those types of events in his area, and the local SPAAMFAA chapter can keep Black and his 1969 Young Crusader rig busy. It would be great to see the Crusader at a national SPAAMFAA event.
RON HEAL compiles the “Apparatus Showcase” and “Recent Orders” departments monthly in Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.
By Ron Heal