Antique 1956 American LaFrance Fire Truck

 

In 1956, this fire truck, along with several others, was delivered to the United States Naval Engineers. The pumper is equipped with an American LaFrance (ALF) Twin-Flo 750-gpm pump, a 300-gallon water tank, Continental gasoline engine, and manual transmission. This type of specification was fairly standard for the time period. The model number of this unit (775-PCO) shows this to be a 700 Series. However, the body and hose bed make this appear to be a transition apparatus to the 800 Series. After serving for nine years with the Navy, the fate of this engine was changed in the summer of 1965.

On June 2, 1965, the small Texas town of Hale Center was devastated by a massive tornado. The National Weather Service retroactively designated this tornado as an F4 (200-mph wind speeds). The storm claimed four lives and injured 76 people. Massive property damage to the tune of $8 million ($30 to $40 million in today’s dollars) occurred, including the destruction of the fire station. As a youngster that grew up in the area, a firsthand look at the devastation strengthened the healthy respect for tornadoes that still resonates to this day.

Without a front-line pumper, the department began a search for a unit that could serve the needs of the town. After searching high and low without the benefit of today’s wealth of resources and quick abilities to communicate, the engine became available through the Navy. Volunteers made a trip to Corpus Christi, Texas, to pick up the engine and drive it back to Hale Center. Many today cannot fathom making a 575-mile trip to drive a semi-open cab apparatus in searing Texas heat back to the station.

From July 1965 until early 1987, this unit served as the department’s front-line pumper. In 1987, the department acquired a new E-ONE pumper built on a GMC chassis. The ALF then went into second-due service and remains in this capacity today. It also serves the community as a parade engine and recently marked 50 years of continuous service in Hale Center.

Photos and description courtesy of Lindsay Dye.

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