The city’s oldest motorized fire engine, a 1939 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck that has drifted from station to station in search of a home for decades, once again needs a new home.
The rare Fox pumper spent the last few years at the disused Brown Square fire station on Plantation Street, where it moved after it was removed from the old Providence Street station that became an ambulance base for UMass Memorial Emergency Medical Services.
Now the city is selling the Brown Square station to a Paxton couple with plans to redevelop it into their home.
“Where it goes from here? God only knows. The stations are full,” said Firefighter Alfred J. Belanger, the department’s unofficial historian, who helped get the elderly Fox moved to Brown Square when the Providence Street station was turned over to paramedics.
“There’s really no home for it. It’s been bouncing around from station to station for years,” he said.
The antique was stashed in the Tatnuck Square station in the early 1990s and then at the McKeon Road station in the late ’90s. It has also done stints over the years at the Greendale station on West Boylston Street and at the Grove Street Fire Headquarters.
Plans to move the Fox to the Massachusetts National Guard Military Museum on Salisbury Street fell through years ago.
More recent plans to move the historic fire truck to a proposed Blackstone Valley Visitor Center along Route 146 were foiled by an outbreak of irony. The former Washburn & Moen factory that was to have been the heart of the complex burned down in March 2010.
The department has been approached over the years by collectors interested in the rare Fox, but Chief Gerard Dio prefers to keep it in the department if possible, said Deputy Chief Geoffrey Gardell.
The pumper truck will be moved back to the Grove Street headquarters for the time being while the chief figures out what to do with it long term, Deputy Chief Gardell said.
The department has several older horse-drawn engines stored in truck trailers for safe keeping, but the stout Fox is just too big and heavy for that. It needs a building.
Firefighter Belanger said he would hate to see the historic truck parked outside at the mercy of the elements.
“It would be nice to have it refurbished. It’s in great shape. There’s no rust or body rot,” he said. “The whole engine starts to bounce when it’s pumping. The power is just awesome. It’s probably the most collectible firetruck out there.”
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