Historic fire truck to join Dillon’s parade
DILLON – When Jim Cox and Jim McNaul first saw Lake Dillon Fire Authority’s 63-year-old fire truck in late January, it was tucked away in a shed in Dillon Valley East, being used as a prop for various pieces of equipment and covered in several inches of dust. Its red paint was faded, the upholstery was destroyed and nobody had fired up the ignition for four or five years. But even then, its potential shone through.McNaul, vice president of the Summit Historical Society, wanted to jump on an offer by the fire department to donate the 1942 Sterling Howe truck to the organization, so he enlisted the help of Cox, a fellow society member and volunteer firefighter. ‘It started right up’
Cox estimates he and McNaul logged 300 to 400 hours over the past several months tweaking and toiling to get the truck operational.They started by sending the carburetor off to California to be rebuilt. When it came back in mid-April, they slapped it in the truck along with a new battery and …”It started right up, which kind of amazed everybody,” Cox said.They also worked on the brakes, rewired the electrical system and spruced up the aesthetic aspects with the help of some Summit County Jail inmates.Together, the group sanded all the wood pieces, brushed on a fresh coat of red paint, shined up the chrome, hooked up flashing red lights and a new fire hose and installed a bullhorn and siren. For a finishing touch, they adorned the truck with American flags.
“We’re just real happy with what’s happened so far,” Cox said. “We were kind of under the gun to get it looking good by Fourth of July parade.”Two months later, it’s running and ready to take its place in the parade that starts today at 2 p.m. Where it all beganThe fire truck was built with a Sterling motor and Howe pumper and began its service in the U.S. Army around the time of World War II. Sometime after the war ended, the truck was donated to the county. It is thought that the transfer may have taken place when the military was helping construct the Green Mountain Dam in Heeney, McNaul said.
After the county accepted the truck, it was given to the town of Dillon, which had to do some work to get it to pump water from streams and ponds because there was no centralized water system back then, former Dillon mayor Tom Foster said via e-mail.In 1962, the truck went along when the town was moved to make room for the reservoir. It was stored in town hall, which is now the Lake Dillon Theater building. A hole was cut in the side of the structure to create a garage for the truck.In 1967, the official Dillon Volunteer Fire Department was formed and the truck became an integral part of Dillon’s early days.”Many decisions about the town were made by sitting on the running board of that truck,” wrote Foster, who served his term from 1966-1969.But, even in its prime, the truck had a reputation for being slow and oftentimes another vehicle was used to push it up the hills, Foster’s e-mail said.”Frisco always gave us a bad time because we wouldn’t drag it uphill to them to fight their fires,” he wrote. “(The Porterfield family) lost their house because we couldn’t get there in time.”
But the truck did get there in time for a fire at the Eisenhower Tunnel construction office and a blaze at the Sands Sawmill in 1956.When former Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue chief Francis Winston came on board in 1989, he took the old truck out of service, saying that it no longer had any practical use.Since then, it has changed hands and homes a number of times but is currently being stored at a temporary location in Silverthorne. The historical society is still searching for a permanent location.And McNaul and Cox aren’t yet done with the restoration. The Summit Foundation just awarded the historical society an $8,000 grant for continued restoration, maintenance and storage. McNaul says they’ve already spent about $2,000 on the truck and it still needs some work on the body and the radiator.The plan is to make the fire truck a fixture at many of the county’s summertime parades and weekend events.
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