Saturday, January 23, 2010

Readying for the Funeral Detail

First, a little more about my grandfather, something he never talked to us kids about, that Mom shared with us this week.

Grandpa Blue, prior to his service with Portland Fire, served in the United States Navy and saw action during World War II. In fact, he was among those at the center of the action while serving on the destroyer USS Stormes when she was struck by a kamikaze, severely damaging the vessel and taking the lives of 21 sailors and injuring 15 others. The attack happened on the evening of the very first day that the newly-commissioned Stormes was in theatre for the first time. In a rare moment of talking openly about his experiences, he once told my mom about cutting through steel and bodies, after he had helped put down the fires, while making attempts to secure the ship afterwards. The Stormes was saved, repaired in drydock, patched up adequately to limp home on one shaft, and was eventually fully repaired and returned to duty.


I was waiting for Spring, for the weather to warm up, before doing any serious work on Engine 17, but Mom asked me to consider bringing 17 to participate in the funeral detail. There isn't a lot that can be done on such short notice to pretty her up, but the single worst eyesore has been the partially-removed door markings, where the decals left some adhesive behind, and the hand-painted "GRANT COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT" had been crossed out with single lines of electrical tape (cheesy, I know, but it was what was available at the time, and I felt it important to be clear the rig was not representing Grant County when out and about).

I called fellow firefighter and auto body guru Art Bonenfant this morning, asking if he could help me out on very short notice. Sure, he said, but only if you bring it right now. So of course, I did.

The first thing I went to do after showing up at his place was remove the electrical tape. The tape had only been on a couple months, and not exposed to direct sunlight, but I'll be danged if it didn't pull up the paint under it, all the way down to the primer and in some cases exposing bare metal! Ouch!! Interestingly, it revealed no red under the lime-yellow, so when Grant County repainted her, they stripped her down right first. What was supposed to be a simple buff-off job got a lot more complicated, but Art was not perturbed in the slightest. I told him I didn't need perfection, because an entire repaint was in the future, I only hoped to make 17 marginally presentable for Monday's service.

He set me to work with lacquer thinner to remove the adhesive residue from the decals, and pulled out some paints. From 30-40' away, he poured yellow into a paper cup, added a small dollop of green and a touch of white, stirred it, and then carefully regarded 17. He then dipped a stir stick into the green paint and dropped a single drop of green into the cup. Stirred. Regarded. Another drop. A drop of white. He did this for about ten minutes until he was satisfied and put it down.

We set to buffing the lettering off without incident.

After the buffing was completed, I noticed evidence of where additional lettering had been placed by Grant County FD #5 on the bottom of the door, that had read "Moses Lake WA". I hadn't known about that. If you click on the picture below to full size, you can just barely make out some of that lettering. This pic also shows the severity of paint damage from removing the tape.

We then masked off the doors, and Art laid down a heavy coat of his blend on top of the exposed metal/primer, to cover the dark strips. He then sprayed a wider band to blend the coloring, and finally sprayed a third coat over the entire door.

He was done less than two hours after I showed up!

While not a perfect perfect match, as you can see it was extremely close. I am hugely impressed with his ability to eyeball a color and put together a blend on the fly.

So.... got that squared away. Give her a bath and she'll be ready to go on Monday. Art will eventually be getting 17 back, as he'll be the guy giving her back a beautiful red coat one day.

I called Uncle Larry to let him know 17's would be coming along. I hadn't chatted with him at length yet, but to my delight he let me know that there would be a full Navy honor guard including 21 gun salute. Also, Portland Engine 10 and her crew would be in attendance. However, Mom hadn't known that no procession was included in the final arrangements, and as parking is at a premium where the memorial is being held, we agreed it would be best to not bring Engine 17 after all.

Well, good progress was made anyway, and as the restoration continues, I will always remember the part that Grandpa Blue played in kicking me in the rear to get some work done on 17. Readying the pumper to honor him, even if it doesn't happen as I expected, will always represent the beginning of 17's road to restoration.

Rest easy Grandpa, your detail is completed. We've got it from here.


  1. Bro, Art did a beautiful job on her! I was very impressed and I got to see her up close! As I told you in person, when you are ready to bring her back to Art, call me. I'm coming to help! Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, I'm surprised you didn't know about the Moses Lake gig. I noticed that when we picked her up the day you bought her! ;)