Texas fire dept. restores vintage fire truck

The Grapevine Fire Department is seeking to raise $10,000 to restore the 1928 engine

By Marty Sabota
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

GRAPEVINE, Texas — In 1928, the Grapevine Fire Department introduced a 1928 Model A Ford.

The Ford was the first fire truck the city of Grapevine purchased; before then, other fire vehicles had been converted trucks.

Although long retired, the truck is still the pride of the fire department and is seen throughout the year at special occasions such as the city’s annual Main Street Christmas Parade, Breakfast with Santa fundraiser, fire open houses and neighborhood events.

But time has taken its toll and the truck is badly in need of mechanical and body repairs.

“It’s really dinged up,” said Kathleen Thompson, a board member of the Grapevine Citizens’ Fire Academy Alumni.

The association has been raising funds the past several years to give the truck a facelift, including a new engine.

Their most recent effort is a fundraising dinner to Save the ’28, with a goal of $10,000.

Outback Steakhouse is catering the steak/chicken dinner on Oct. 21, and two dinner seatings are available, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Fire Station One at 601 Boyd Drive.

Thompson said the restoration efforts are rewarding.

“It’s a part of Grapevine heritage,” she said.

Their efforts were lauded by retired Fire Chief Bill Powers, who has a long and fond history with the Model A.

“I rode on that truck,” Powers said. “I used to keep it running, doing tune-ups and whatever else it needed. It’s part of me.”

The 84-year-old retiree loves the vintage truck, explaining, “I’m just an old-fashioned man.”

Powers has had lots of opportunity to be around the truck. He joined the fire department as a volunteer in 1955 and “started getting paid” as a fire marshal in 1973. He served as fire chief from 1984 to 1999.

It represents the old and the new.

Bill Powers on the restoration of the 1928 Model A fire truck

A favorite memory is riding in the truck in the Christmas parade, adding, “We love to decorate it and put lights on it.”

Powers said the truck is important to the history of the city, adding that fire equipment is an indicator of the city’s progress.

“It represents the old and the new and how far Grapevine has come in equipment, “ Powers said.

For example, he said, the truck’s cost was in the thousands. By contrast, he said they bought a new fire engine in 1957 for about $18,000 and a new fire engine in 1972 for about about $32,000.

When the 1928 Model A Ford was purchased, the only fire station was downtown. Grapevine probably had about 35 volunteer firefighters.

Two million dollar-plus vehicles have been bought in recent years: a 2016 Pierce Rescue Engine was introduced at Fire Station 4 in August and a 2013 Pierce Aerial Platform was unveiled at Fire Station 1 in January 2014.

When the 1928 Model A Ford was purchased, the only fire station was downtown. The town probably had about 35 volunteer firefighters then.

Now there are five stations and 110 fire and administrative personnel, according to Deputy Fire Chief Mark Ashmead.

The 1928 truck was retired in the 1950s and began service as a historical piece of fire equipment. The truck was restored in 1977 by the Grapevine High School automotive and body department.

The fire alumni association is proud of its involvement with the city.

At the Sept. 20 City Council meeting, Mayor William D. Tate presented a proclamation to the association recognizing 15 years of service to the city.

Several dozen people are members, including Councilman Chris Coy and Councilwoman Darlene Freed.

To be a member, citizens take a one-night-a-week course over 12 weeks. Thompson said the course includes live fire burns, the jaws of life rescue tool, fire safety, fire prevention and how fires get started.

A major purpose of the association is to provide assistance at fires. Using their R561 self-contained, mobile rehab vehicle — a 1999 Chevrolet Wheeled Coach ambulance given by the city in 2005 — alumni personnel provide firefighters and other on-scene personnel with cold water, hot coffee, tea and snacks at any incident where they are paged to respond.

R561 is also equipped with a mister fan, cool vests, chairs and a 10x10 popup shade to provide a cool location for first responders to rest and cool off during hot-weather incidents.

Typical incidents where R561 has been utilized include two-plus alarm fires, lake rescues and recoveries, fuel spills and training exercises.

“We are an all-volunteer organization that is here all for the good of our first responders who keep us safe around-the-clock in our community,” Thompson said.

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