Every fire truck on the planet has many stories to tell—it’s the nature of the business.
Most emergency vehicles do their service in one area but fire trucks often end up in various places because one town’s obsolete equipment is the perfect fit for another fire department in another town.
This 1941 Ford Herrington LaFrance-equipped 6×6 is a great example of the winding road taken by these vehicles.
McBride is a fairly remote village in central northern British Columbia and they decided to upgrade their fire department in 1957. They wanted to apply formal training techniques and more equipment to make the service a lot more effective so they started with a real fire truck to replace the hose reels and non purpose-built vehicles they used to that point.
They found a 1941 Ford Herrington, LaFrance-equipped, Air Force Crash truck that had seen service with the RCAF during World War II. They believe the truck was purchased from an Edmonton, AB War Surplus store and driven back over some pretty sketchy roads to McBride in a 24-hour marathon trip.
Ford Herringtons were the workhorse of the military and trucks like this 3-ton, six-wheel drive were found at every British Commonwealth Air Training Plan bases in Canada during World War II. They were built to respond to air crashes on or near the air bases.
These trucks were reasonably fast so a skilled driver could hit 50 miles per hour in one of these brutes with the 85-horse flathead V-8 engine. They were well-engineered—right down to the exhaust route through a box containing the pipes so the heat could offset the reality of a brutally cold winter.
A Ford Herrington fire truck could pump out 350 gallons per minute at 150 PSI through two twelve-inch ports plus it had air aspirating play pipes (attached to the hoses) that gave it foam-producing capability.
The Village of McBride housed the truck in its Village building and it was used until 1974 in active service. The village sold the truck to a local company (Ziedler Forest Products) and they donated it back to the McBride District Fire Association in 2002.
The Association realized this truck was a huge part of their history so the group put together a plan to restore this truck to its former glory. They have a logical plan to repatriate the truck with the old Village building that housed it for years.
The strategy for the resurrection of the old fire truck began when the group got the old warhorse running thanks to a dedicated volunteer effort. The truck has seen some parade duty but the next step is to get it pass mechanical inspections through donations of time and money.
The Association has lofty goals for the final push on the truck and the building. They want to get heritage status for the old Village building plus they want to do a full restoration on the Ford Herrington 6×6 Crash Tender.
The fundraising is a key part of the game plan so the Association is constantly in search of donors and volunteers.
The hard work won’t be in vain because this truck’s history puts a definite value on it—priceless.
By Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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