Retired Rancho Cucamonga (CA) Firefighters Bring Home Hand-Made 1937 Pumper

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Costello, Rancho Cucamonga (CA) Fire Department.

According to a report from The Daily Bulletin, the hard work of one depression-ear volunteer firefighter from the now defunct Alta Loma Fire Department (ALFD) in Rancho Cucamonga, California, has been given new life by a group of retired firefighters from the same department.

After many years, the fire truck built nearly from scratch by ALFD member and mechanic Arthur Relph back in 1937 has been returned home to what has become the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (RCFD).

His creation, now 83 years old, arrived by trailer on November 23, 2020, at RCFD’s headquarters. Still adorning “Alta Loma Fire Department” on its hood, the pumper was greeted by several former ALFD firefighters and current fire officials. After some refurbishing and a touch of paint, the pumper may become a centerpiece of a future fire museum in the city.

Relph did his handiwork during the dark days of the Great Depression after it became apparent the ALFD’s current pumper was too small. The REO Speedwagon (not the rock band, but an actual vehicle built by the REO Motor Car Co.), could carry only about 60 gallons of water, a woefully small amount for extinguishing fires by today’s standards.

According to a December 5, 1974, article in the Ontario Daily Report, ALFD volunteers, aware there was no money to purchase a larger pumper, turned to Relph, whose garage was close to the firehouse. Using parts from a 1937 Dodge truck, he assembled the pumper “from a chassis to match a picture the fire department had seen and liked.” The finished truck carried a 200-gallon water tank and pump.

The pumper was still in use when the ALFD merged with the RCFD in 1974. Eventually, the truck was pulled from service and later acquired by Relph. Sammy Dominick Sr., a retired firefighter who helped organize the effort to bring the truck back to the RCFD, is looking for a secure location to store the pumper to allow the retired firefighters to work on getting the truck running again.

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