Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pickup Day - Part I

I rode up from the Portland area to Tacoma by train, and crashed out at the in-laws (they're the best.. it just kicks all to have great in-laws). Bright and early Saturday morning, my sister picks me up, and northward we go, through Seattle up to Mukilteo to catch the ferry to Whidbey Island, where my pumper awaits. It is a great drive up, filled with anticipation for both of us. My sister is every bit as nuts about this as I am.

We arrive at our destination, and I see the rig parked at the end of the field. Wow, I am actually buying a fire engine. I am nuts... yeah yeah, we've been over that. Sister feels the same way... wow, he's really buying a fire engine.... he's nuts... we both are.

The gentleman selling her walks us around the rig. I've been holding a slight hope that it was my 'home' rig, Engine 8, but we quickly spot the '10' on the back. That's cool, it is still one of the eight sisters, and 10 is a busy house adjacent to 8's first-due that shares nearly all its fires with 8, as 8 often did with 10. She was missing her Q siren and all of her original warning lights, only a slightly modernized roof warning beacon remained. She was missing several of her intake and discharge caps as well as her Stang water cannon. A couple of rolls of hose were all she had for equipment, hosebed and ladder rack bare bones empty. But that can all be fixed later.... this is one of the eight sisters.

Then, he started her up.

Oh.... that SOUND! I remember it well, and a lot of memories came right back. Hearing that old familiar Detroit Diesel roar to life was.... well... amazing. Inside I am all... 'Yessss!'

We took her out for a quick test drive, and she ran beautifully.

I drove two other American LaFrance engines often on the job before this day. One was a 1984 refurbed 'Type 1000 Century Series', and the other a 1990 'Century 2000'... and while I loved them for being ALF rigs, they did not have the same sound as old Engine 10 and her sisters. What was markedly different this time, was that the sound was a constant for us in the cab as we drove, not a coming or going. Interesting.

We returned, exchanged funds and paperwork, and headed out.

First stop, the hardware store. She still bore the markings of the last agency she worked for, Grant County Fire District #13. We purchased some white contact paper and cut it to size to cover the door markings, the unit ID markings under the jumpseat windows, and the unit ID marking on the nose. On the doors and nose we use a permanent marker to clearly mark this engine as NOT IN SERVICE, and also to cover the warning light on the roof and the now-invalid Washington State "Aid Car License" on the windshield.

You see, I had no interest whatsoever in being waved down by someone in distress. I anticipated having no equipment, and although it turned out to have a little bit of hose aboard, a pneumatic actuator was not functioning and she would not go into pump gear, nor was a nozzle to be had. I admit I did bring my turnout gear and a very nice first-aid/trauma jump kit, but I hoped to not need it. I deliberately avoided wearing anything that would made me look even remotely like a firefighter on or off duty.

It started quickly... I think we talked to five people in the parking lot of this small hardware store on Whidbey island who stopped to look at her, realizing it was a privately-owned toy. Mostly older guys. Yeah, they had boats and stuff... but you could tell they suddenly (if only temporarily) had Fire Engine Envy. This continued all day.

Driving her onto the ferry was a treat. Sister had the roughest time... she wanted to be in the fire engine, not following. Darn all the luck, I swear she would have sold that Ford Explorer to the first person that offered $100 just so she could ride back in the engine, but no one came forward in time.

The ride back to Tacoma was uneventful, except for the part where I spoke inside the cab while approaching the Tacoma Dome on I-5 as if old Engine 10 could hear me.

"Welcome home, baby. Welcome home".

Nuts? Yeah, I am. But I accepted that many years ago.

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