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GMC Fire Engine - Okanogan, WA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 48° 22.418 W 119° 34.149
11U E 309748 N 5361018
Quick Description: This 1928 GMC T-40 is the first fire engine owned by the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department, beautifully restored by the department.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 7/22/2018 10:16:39 PM
Waymark Code: WMYTFK
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member NW_history_buff
Views: 1

Long Description:
One of three motorized pieces of fire fighting equipment in the Okanogan Firemen's Museum, this is the middle one of the three. The other two are a 1945 Buffalo Fire Engine and a 1918 GMC Fire Wagon.

Unfortunately, old #1 is not totally the engine it was when first put into service. The firefighting equipment was stripped from the chassis and it was converted into an asphalt distributor in the early 1950s, then retired. In the 1970s it was again converted into a water tanker, then converted a third time (fourth actually, as the original fire engine body would have been a conversion) when a WWII fire engine body was mounted on the chassis.

Serving the city until 1944, Engine #1 went on to other duties, including a stint as a derelict, before returning to the city and the fire department to be displayed here. A comprehensive history of the engine, reproduced below, has been compiled by the museum, so I'll say no more.

OLD ENGINE #1
THE CITY OF OKANOGAN'S FIRST FIRE TRUCK

As the city of Okanogan grew, so did their need for a fire department. Their first purchase of fire equipment was a hand pulled or horse drawn hose cart.

After several years of service and wear, it was worn out, discarded, and thrown off the west end of the Oak Street Bridge into the Okanogan River (a common practice back then). It was replaced by the proud purchase of Okanogan's first fire truck.

Engine #1 is a 1928 GMC Model T-40, serial number 2008783, rated for a 2-ton load. It is equipped with a powerful and dependable Buick 6-cylinder engine that was able to propel the truck at good highway speeds. (The truck's name plate carries a warning that the warranty will be voided if the truck is overloaded or driven at speeds in excess of 27 m.p.h.) When the GMC Model 1-40 was introduced in 1927, a driver named Cannonball Baker [those familiar with USAC and NASCAR should recognize this name] used a tanker version hauling a capacity load of 2 tons of Atlantic Ocean water to the Pacific Ocean, racing from New York to San Francisco in the then record time of 5 days, 17 1/2 hours.

Engine #1 served faithfully as the City of Okanogan's only fire truck until 1944 when the State of Washington notified Okanogan they would have to purchase a new pumper truck that met the current state regulations or build a new city water reservoir. The City then bought the Buffalo fire truck that is still on the City's inventory, and the 1928 GMC #1 was moved to a back-up position where it soldiered on until sometime in the early 1950's when it was sent with a 3-man crew to extinguish a grass fire on the Cameron Lake Road. On the return trip disaster struck when the driver downshifted the transmission on the steep grade near the Carlson place attempting to slow the vehicle's speed, but this over revved the engine and loosened one of the connecting rods causing a loud knocking noise. When the worst part of the hill was behind, the transmission was shifted into neutral, and they coasted most of the way to town.

After being towed the rest of the way into town, the decision was made to turn engine #1 over to the City's Street Department. Roy Sawyer, the department manager, obtained a re-babbited connecting rod and the necessary gaskets from Dennis Auto Company and did the repair work himself. After the repairs were made, all firefighting equipment was stripped from the truck, and it was converted into an asphalt distributor used to make repairs to the City's paved streets. It continued in this role for a number of years until it was again stripped of all its mounted equipment and parked near the City of Okanogan's old shop where Okanogan Truck and Tractor's used equipment lot is now located. During the 10 or more years it sat in this unprotected location, it was worked over by local vandals until not one trace of glass was left, and anything that could be broken was.

In April of 1973 Engine #1 was purchased from the City of Okanogan by Melvin Anderson and restored to running condition, its first job being that of a water tanker after a 400 gallon tank was installed and used to supply water to his 20-horsepower Minneapolis Steam Tractor Engine when it was being used at his annual steam-up or in the Okanogan Days Parade. Later a fire truck body from a WWII vintage fire truck was purchased and installed along with a PTO driven water pump connected to a 175 gallon water tank that enabled Engine #1 to still act as a water tender to the Big Minnie Steamer and also to return to its original role of providing fire protection.

Today Old Engine #1 sits in a replica of its original home, the Okanogan City Fireball, and like an old firehorse, it waits for the ringing of the fire bell.


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