Today’s post is a slight departure from the usual firehouse articles here. The topic: fire trucks. The words ‘fire truck’ usually evoke the image of a red pumper or ladder truck. Certainly these are the two typical options for kids toys. But are fire trucks all red pumper or ladder trucks? No way. Here are a few less heard of fire apparatus that you won’t see in your typical toy aisle.
Unofficially the world’s smallest fire ‘truck’, the Nobleton Fire Department in Ontario has a truck the size of a large golf cart. (In fact, it IS a converted golf cart). A short YouTube video shows it ‘zooming’ down the road with its sirens on but the fire department reports that, while it is a legitimate truck, it’s mainly used for parades and education nowadays.
While you’re on YouTube, check out these next three trucks. First is the Pink Heels Tour. Organized throughout the year, volunteers drive a bright pink fire truck and fire fighters don pink fire gear. Making house calls to people effected by cancer, giving public educational displays, and raising money through donations and product sales this organization sets out to celebrate and uplift the cancer survivors individually rather than focus on a entire cause. Plus, they let people whip out a sharpie and write a message on the side of the pink truck!
‘Stinger’ fire trucks are exactly what the name suggests – they have a sharp stinger that can penetrate the side of an airplane to extinguish an internal fire. Used primarily at airports, the truck has a hose like a regular pumper truck and the stinger attached to a tall, adjustable boom arm. It has a maximum reach of 55 feet and can spray water and foam at the same time. Now why don’t they make kids trucks with a big piercing stinger?
The Chinese have done away with a standard truck completely and employed a battle tank chassis to fight hazardous fires. The armored walls can withstand heat and bio-hazard material and allow the fire fighters to literally roll into a fire and fight it from within. Used mainly for oil plants and chemical factories, the fire tank sprays water and foam retardant and is equipped with an internal sprinkler system to provide temperature relief. The definitely need a toy version of one of these.
You won’t see an Antarctic ARFF truck roll down the street during a Fourth of July Parade. These essential, yet problematic vehicles are on tracks instead of wheels in order to contend with the elements of the South Pole. Battling issues such as freezing fire retardant foam inside the pipes and corroding machine parts make these trucks very high maintenance.
Just like individual fire houses cater to the needs of their community, so do the fire apparatus. There’s endless possibility for uses and modifications.
With pride and dedication to fire departments where one has pledged to serve wholly and to which they would risk their lives, inevitably comparison between facilities ensues. Some stations are proud to be small and efficient. While others have no qualms about building grandiose block-long buildings. Of course factors such as the size, scope, and varying possible contingencies a station’s district might present play into what a particular station needs to look like and what it needs to house. (not to mention the city’s money supply, although some cities can boast that their station was built primarily with donated funds and volunteers staff, but that’s another blog post). So, let’s highlight some of the world’s smallest and largest fire stations (the buildings themselves, not the entire department).
In 2012 the Guinness World Record Academy named the 13′ by 20′ fire station in Goathland, Yorkshire, UK as the world’s smallest. The solo stone garage houses a fire fighting Land Rover outfitted with fire fighting tools. The nine volunteers who run the station include a youth worker, a salesman, and a farmer. The group, aged 20s – 30s, race to their mini-station in just under 4 minutes of an alarm sounding. They eloquently handle the most common emergencies in their district: house fires, car crashes and even infernos on the nearby moors. The land for the tiny station was donated by a local resident, but the building itself only contains a desk and a filing cabinet (aside from supplies and tools of course). With no running water, the volunteers bring their own beverages and have a key for the nearby public toilet. They have to carry water containers and their hoses on the Land Rover, which presents weight problems for the vehicle. The station handles between 25-50 callouts per year. The district they cover is quite large but the human population is low.
There is no official ‘largest’ fire house on record, but it wouldn’t be a long shot to give the title to Fire Station 1 (Feuerwache 1 ) in the district of Eckenheim, Germany. The scope of their coverage includes ten districts which contains the city of Frankfurt, massive motorways, a rail tunnel and rail system, and assistance to the Frankfurt airport. With at least 60 bay doors (the doors appear to be in the front and at the rear of the bays, giving the trucks the option to park inside the inner courtyard area) the building is absolutely mammoth. The station contains ladder trucks, large tank trucks, an aerosol vehicle, three different command vehicles, front loader construction vehicle, and a loader vehicle with a crane. It also looks like the facility is equipped for respiratory and environmental protection training.
The building was erected in 2003 and has a crew of twenty-five fire fighters on duty around the clock. Training areas and inspection zones are also in the facility. With such a large building maybe they have segways to get around?
Many people don’t connect the famous painter Andy Warhol with fire houses, but his first studio was an old fire station on 87th Street near Lexington Avenue in New York City, NY. Hook and Ladder Company 13 had moved out in 1960 to E. 85th Street. The original Hook and Line Company 13 was famous for fighting the horrific Park Place Explosion of August 22, 1891 which claimed lives from several surrounding fire brigades. The fire house was constructed around 1868, with major renovations occurring around 1910s and 1920s. It’s a narrow building with a solo garage door for one fire apparatus. Scrolled keystone and chain motif ornamentation originally decorated the building, but the black roof line décor still remains today.
It was the early 1960s and the fire house rented for $100 a month (although most sources claim $150). Apparently it wasn’t a hot ticket and was easy for Warhol to secure. In November of 1962, Warhol scripted a letter to the Department of Real Estate contracting the rental. Even abandoned with no heat or running water, the old fire house suited him and his first assistant Gerard Malanga just fine. They converted the second floor into a studio.
Silk screening was Warhol’s focus those days and the old fire house probably provided all the room he needed. Although he still utilized his home nearby to showcase this work. Visitors to the fire house were rare (probably due to lack of heat or running water as mentioned above). Rumor has it that he listened to his music at ear splitting volume too. It was here at the fire house where he created his famous portraits of Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor.
Warhol didn’t use the fire house very long and reportedly rented another studio less than a year later. As of 1966 the fire house was still registered with the New York City of Buildings as an art gallery, so it can be assumed that artists continued to use it after Warhol moved out.
In early 2016, the brokers Thomas D. Gammino Jr., Louis Marchetta, and Brett Weisblum from the firm Cushman & Wakefield, listed the historic fire house on the real estate market. Billionaire art dealer Guy Wildenstein decided to sell the property which could easily be converted to condos, boutique shops, or luxury townhomes since he mainly only used it for storage.
An LLC aptly named Warhol Hook and Ladder 13 purchased the entire 5000 square foot building for a whopping $9.975 million in November of 2016.
Quick shout out to a great pest control company. These guys knocked it out of the park for a termite problem we were having. Amazing service. Can't recommend Crazylegs Pest Control enough. Best exterminators in San Francisco and San Jose. To learn more, click here.