Firefighters rekindle an old engine’s flame

Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm

For the town of Mineral in 1939, a newly purchased Chevrolet fire truck served as a fitting symbol of rescue and assistance. Now, nearly three-quarters of a century later, two of the town’s firefighters are repaying the favor, rescuing the truck from storage and scrap piles to renovate it to its original condition.

Mineral firefighter Gerald Hiter surveys the work left to be done to restore this 1939 Chevrolet fire truck. He is teaming with Edwin Keller in the restoration efforts.

Mineral firefighter Gerald Hiter surveys the work left to be done to restore this 1939 Chevrolet fire truck. He is teaming with Edwin Keller in the restoration efforts.

Current Mineral Volunteer Fire Department vice president and former fire chief Edwin Keller, 62, and Gerald Hiter, 61, who once served as the station’s president, have taken upon the task of restoring the vintage vehicle.

“The fire department talked about getting rid of it at one point,” Hiter said. “They were going to sell it. I told them at the time that I’d buy it, and they changed their mind and decided to keep it.  I’ve always had an interest in fire and antiques.”

The vehicle was the first fire truck that the Mineral VFD ever possessed. According to department records, the truck cost about $9,000, had a top speed of 40 miles per hour and packed just under 100 horsepower when it was first purchased.

Contrast that with today’s fire trucks, which cost around $750,000, have a top speed of 62 miles per hour and boast nearly 500 horsepower, and one starts to get a glimpse into the amount of history this truck has participated in.

After its decommissioning in 1964, the truck was used sparingly for parades and special events. During a Louisa parade in 2003, the cast iron metal head of the engine overheated and cracked, and consequently, the truck was put into the station’s central bay storage room to sit idle. As Hiter and Keller neared the end of their firefighting careers, they took upon the task of renovation about three years ago.

To read the entire story, see the June 20 edition of The Central Virginian.

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