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Firemen keep on truckin’

The core group that worked on the fire truck, front row, from left: Rick Starke, Lyle Raynor, Yvon Guindon, Graham Murray, Rob Laver, Al Deschene, Brian Stewart, Art Sanderson and Brian Cannon. Back: Andy Newall and Corky Adams. Absent: Jordon Newell. - Andrew Leong
The core group that worked on the fire truck, front row, from left: Rick Starke, Lyle Raynor, Yvon Guindon, Graham Murray, Rob Laver, Al Deschene, Brian Stewart, Art Sanderson and Brian Cannon. Back: Andy Newall and Corky Adams. Absent: Jordon Newell.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

You don’t often think of fire trucks going on road trips, do you? Well, this one did.

It wasn’t exactly your typical Sunday afternoon drive, either.

The road trip in question was across the country; all before construction on the Trans Canada Highway started in 1950.

A year before, in 1949, three Duncan Volunteer Fire Department firefighters flew to Woodstock, Ontario, to pick up a state-of-the art fire truck and drive it back to Duncan.

“It was the department’s first fully manufactured fire truck,” said Rob Laver, a former fire fighter and a member of the Duncan Fire Fighters Historical Society, which has spent the last six years restoring the truck.

Before that purchase, Laver said the practice was to purchase a local vehicle and to have the local blacksmith tinker with it, to fit the fire department’s specifications.

The restoration itself came about in a roundabout way. It started with the impending celebration of the 100th anniversary of the DVFD in 2002.

As firefighters collected “all sorts of bits and pieces,” related to the department’s history, they decided to create a non-profit society.

“Doing that allowed us to preserve history and also educate the public about fire and life safety,” Laver said.

The truck was used by the city from 1949 to 1982 and was on loan to the Thetis Island Volunteer Fire Department from 1984 to 1997.

It was stored until 2008, when volunteers started to lovingly restore it.

After dismantling the truck down to its frame, hundreds of parts were cleaned, inspected and cataloged. After the body work and the priming was done, the challenge of putting the puzzle back together again began.

“In several cases, items had to be hand built, as some of the parts were no longer available,” the former firefighter said.

Thirty five thousand dollars in donations from individuals and local businesses and 3,000 hours of labour later, the truck is almost better than new and from all appearances ready for another road trip.

Its next trip will be a lot less ambitious; between Duncan's city yard and the city’s firehall at 468 Duncan St.

Laver said the truck will be displayed there occasionally on Sundays.

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