The fire service has much in common with church, the arts, and other fun hobbies; on one hand it values its heritage, and on the other it seeks progress. As a member of the Washington Hook and Ladder Company in Ashland, I have the rare treat of being part of a company that marries both of these values in a way that very few firemen will ever get to experience. Our ladder truck is (the best we can tell) the oldest functioning ladder truck in the state (maybe beyond), and yet it doesn’t inhibit our function one bit; in fact it has some distinct advantages.
Our “truck” is a 1959 American Lafrance, with a 1993 refurb. It’s a thing of beauty, a true classic. But it has some really neat advantages over many of the newer trucks. As a midmount (notice the turntable operates from the middle of the truck) it can be utilized anywhere. It’s smaller wheel base allows us to maneuver it into tight alleys with ease, and it’s low profile helps us to navigate overhead obstacles. We can mount tools and equipment on it anywhere, which makes grabbing a quick hook very convenient. It truly is a firefighting machine.
Despite its advantages as a classic truck, a beast, a firefighting machine, there is just something really, really awesome about fighting a fire on a truck that symbolizes classic firefighting Americana. It may not be Currier and Ives material, but it’s close – and many firefighters today will never get the true classic experience of a truck like this.
There will come a day when we have to replace it, and greet a newer model. And that will be welcome progress for us at Washington. But until then we savor the pleasure of fighting fires on a true piece of history – “Brutus”, our 1959 American Lafrance Ladder Truck. If you’re ever in the neighborhood – stop in and check it out. While you’re at it, you’ll get to see a really cool fire station that is indeed from the era of Currier and Ives!