Johnson City Press: Johnson City Fire Department receives special historical recognition, donations for restoration of fire truck
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Johnson City Fire Department receives special historical recognition, donations for restoration of fire truck

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 6, 2018 at 7:53 PM

After nearly a century, one of Johnson City’s first gas-powered fire trucks is well on its way to being fully restored. 

As the 1928 Seagrave ladder truck continues to be restored by the Johnson City Fire Department, the ongoing project has gained the attention of the East Tennessee Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America, who arrived at Johnson City Fire Department Station 3 Thursday to present them with a Certificate of Recognition for their “dedication and outstanding achievement” in restoring and preserving the antique fire truck. 

Ron Von Essen, vice president of the East Tennessee Fire Historical Society, said he and others with the group have assisted with the project to help preserve its history for years to come by giving their insight on the mechanics and parts based on their previous restoration projects. 

“One of our members had quite a few parts that they could take advantage of,” he said. 

Von Essen said looking at all of the antique engines the society has helped preserve provides perspective on how difficult it must’ve been to fight fires nearly a century ago. 

“It’s amazing that they could successfully fight fires with antique equipment, but this was the new trend,” he said. “Before that, you literally had horses pulling steamers to build up steam and pressure for the water. This was top of the line at the time.” 

Shortly after receiving the special recognition, Up & At 'Em presented the department with a donation of $1,000 for the restoration efforts, which have been headed by Avery Knapp, a firefighter with the Johnson City Fire Department. Knapp said he is excited to see the engine be restored after being in storage for years until recently. 

“The first thing that’s going to happen with it is it’s going back to the paint booth. The paint that is on it now was put on it in the 1970s,” he said. “Their intent was to then use it as a parade apparatus. At some point, later on, it was housed at a station of ours and that space grew small. It ended up under a utility shed behind the EMS building, and that’s where it sat for several years.” 

The idea for the restoration project came together last year when retired Assistant Chief Mark Finucane, Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl and Vice Mayor Jenny Brock discussed restoring the truck for the city’s upcoming 150th birthday celebration. After Chief Jim Stables was hired late last year, he decided he wanted to help preserve “a piece of the history of this fire department.” 

So far during the project, much of the fundraising efforts and restoration work has come from the firefighters themselves and Johnson City Firefighter’s Association Local 1791. 

Knapp said Thursday’s donation will help speed up the restoration, which will include a new paint job, tools, mechanics and restored ladders.

“It’ll be a shot in the arm as far as getting the ball rolling and helping us in our fundraising efforts,” he said.

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