Not everything in the fire service gets replaced with newer and better. Sometimes older is better.
When the 1976 Maxim was retired, the Federal Q siren mounted on the front fender found a new home on the new, 2008 E-One engine’s bumper. However, the Maxim’s bell, the traditional signaling device on old fire engines, did not get the same upgrade. It was removed and placed under the work bench in the crib at the back of the station where it would remain untouched.
In 2012, the company lost longtime firefighter Joe Dean, Jr. At his funeral, the company had used a bell borrowed from another department to render final honors by striking the four fives. Thought was given to creating our own bell for memorials, but as with many things in the fire house, things were busy and the idea languished.
In 2013, as the department’s oldest piece of apparatus was getting ready to be replaced with a new Ford, members began striping the old 1948 Chevrolet. Amongst the bits and pieces removed was another old bell and an old Sterling siren. Older members will recall the almost embarrassingly slow wind up of the old siren. And besides not sounding great, it looked horrible. It was buried deep in the recesses of the engine. The original bezel and light on the front was missing. The original shiny finish was covered in blobs of dull black paint. But we thought that this old siren could, with a little work, be the mechanical siren that Engine 1, the KME was missing.
Meanwhile, the old siren was more of a challenge. While the siren is a 12v siren, the Chevy ran a 6v system. This explains the sirens SLOW windup on that truck. Besides missing parts, the cover was severely dented and it was caked in old black paint meant to make it less visible. While striping the 3 coats of paint off the siren, it was discovered the the cover was actually copper. While it looked pretty cool after cleaning it up, it was decided that the most durable choice would be powder coating which Andy Gigliotti arranged. Andy also worked on the bearings and milled a replacement cowl to mate with a stainless steel perforated sheet screen. Dave Lennon worked on rewiring the old siren and with the help of Dana Labee, mounted the finished siren to the bumper of Engine 2 and added the required solenoid and switches. With the proper 12v power, the old girl is much quicker but she still takes a bit to get going. The sound when it does?...classic!
With the upcoming retirement of the 1988 Pierce ladder truck, perhaps there will be yet another opportunity to repurpose something from the past for the present.