Quick work by firefighters has saved a piece of local history.
The City of Kamloops had listed for sale through BC Auctions, an online site, a 70-year-old antique fire truck, which had been stored at its Mission Flats yard.
The truck had been collecting dust and the city sought to get rid of it, with an auction notice published on April 12 for the 1951 Seagrave 66E aerial ladder fire truck.
It is not a standard fire truck, but essentially a boom truck capable of deploying water. A public works employee in charge of getting rid of the old fire truck said the city needed space at the yard and nobody seemed to want the vehicle. He said the truck had been in storage for many years.
Proceeds from the sale would have gone into city coffers.
Kamloops Fire Rescue Chief Steve Robinson said the truck was gifted to the city in 2008 via a Vernon resident’s will. He said there was originally an initiative to restore it.
KFR Capt. Ed Allen was involved in that initiative and said he was not aware the city was planning to sell the fire truck, due to miscommunication that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He was surprised to learn of the potential sale when notified by KTW, citing the historical significance of the truck, which dates back to a growing Kamloops pre-amalgamation.
In 1951, Allen said, the new truck arrived downtown, coming by rail from the East Coast. He said cities are required to have certain-sized fire trucks when population targets are met. At the time, Kamloops was growing, necessitating need for the sizeable Seagrave.
Allen said the city utilized the truck until the mid-to-late-1970s, at which time the city replaced it, selling the original to the BC Transportation Museum in the Lower Mainland. Retired fire captain Dave Costain, who still lives in Kamloops, drove the truck as a rookie firefighter in 1974.
The BC Transportation Museum later closed and a resident in the Okanagan purchased the old fire truck and put it in storage.
Allen said former KFR fire chief Neill Moroz was involved in getting the vehicle back to Kamloops, which has two other historical fire trucks, about a century old, located in the KFR Museum at Fire Hall No. 1 in Sahali.
The 1951 Seagrave was eventually willed back to Kamloops and has been waiting to be restored ever since.
As of April 15, the city had received 15 bids for the old truck, with a high offer of $2,033.88. The auction was set to continue until April 21.
However, once notified of the item placed for sale on the auction site, the notice was withdrawn on April 16.
Robinson said KFR spoke to the city and had the truck pulled from BC Auctions. He said the firefighters’ union is planning to find a place to store and restore the truck, likely funding restoration through volunteer donations and Local 913.
The truck still runs, but will need time, money and storage to get back into shape.
The truck has sat idle for multiple decades and needs, at the least, brakes and a new paint job. Once restored, it could be utilized in events, such as the annual Santa Claus Parade, Allen said.
Decisions about the truck’s restoration fate have yet to be made — such as potential fundraising and grant applications. The vehicle may be restored by a local antique car club.
Allen said he is grateful the truck will remain in Kamloops.
“If it had gone, we’d have never gotten it back,” he said.
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Chief Steve Robinson said Kamloops Fire rescue still uses vehicles like the 1951 Seagrave 66E aerial ladder fire truck, but noted the capabilities of a modern fire truck would far exceed those of the 1951 version.
The oldest working truck in KFR’s fleet can be no more than two decades old, due to insurance requirements. The oldest frontline truck would be 15 years old, with vehicles graduating to reserve service for another five years.
Robinson said it is hard to get parts for old trucks, but if antiques like the 70-year-old 1951 Seagrave can be brought back to life, they would only be used ceremonially.
“You would see it in a parade and that’s really about it,” Robinson said.