ANDES FIRST MOTORIZED FIRE ENGINE – 100 YEARS OLD! June 2024

By Dave Biswurm

The Andes Fire Department was formed in 1877.  Their equipment consisted of a hand-pulled hose cart and a hand-pulled ladder wagon.  Several serious fires occurred after the formation of the fire department with only this equipment using the 13 fire hydrants in the village to fight the flames.  In June 1878, 11 buildings were lost to a fire.  In 1896 three buildings were lost in a fire.  In February 1920, another 3 buildings were destroyed by a fire right across the street from the fire house.  The Village decided in 1924 it was time to purchase a motorized pumper truck after 3 more buildings were consumed in a serious fire.

So in 1924, the Andes Fire Department purchased a Day-Elder truck with a fire engine body built by the Childs-Foamite company.  This truck had a 500-gallon-per-minute rotary gear pump, and, researching old records, is believed to have had a chemical tank on board also.  A chemical tank carries water and a container of acid.  When needed, the acid is added to the tank pressurizing it and creating a stream of water lasting several minutes.  The truck carried several hundred feet of 2 1/2 inch hose, an extension ladder, tools, fire extinguishers, lanterns and four lengths of hard suction hose for use in drafting water from a pond or stream.

The truck is powered by a “Buda” motor.  Originally, the truck had a battery and could be started by pressing a pedal.  Today it must be started by turning a large crank on the front or jump-started by being towed.  The wheels have wooden spokes as well as a wooden steering wheel.  As was common in that day, there is no windshield.  Only a few fire engines were built on the Day-Elder chassis.  Fortunately, we have one of the last surviving trucks.

Stories have been told that the truck responded to its first fire at a house on the Bullet Hole Road.  It was also driven to Delhi to assist at a fire when the temperature outside was 20 degrees below zero.  Recollections indicate it responded to Margaretville to help at a fire and pumped for 27 hours.  For many years, it was driven to Walton to participate in the parade at the Delaware County Fair.

Several years ago the truck developed mechanical problems.  Thanks to the efforts of some of our dedicated firefighters, much work was done on the motor to get the truck running.  In the Fall of 2022, the beloved truck was back on the road again.

On April 9th of this year, the truck was put to its final test.  Would it still pump after 100 years?  After a few adjustments, the truck drafted water from a pond and shot an impressive stream of water 100 feet.  It is planned that the truck will participate in the Andes Community Day Parade in August and will be on display after the parade where the pump will be demonstrated.  Happy 100th Birthday!~