WWII Wartime Chevrolet Fire Engines in Fairfax County
Peter West & Tommy Herman
I was asked to document the WWII Chevrolet fire engines in service in Fairfax County during and after WWII. Here is what I have found:
There seems to have been at least five war time Chevys in use in Fairfax County from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. Some of them were built by the Oren Co. in Roanoke, VA., probably under contract to the US Army. There are no records showing when these engines went in service in the various Fairfax County companies, so we have to assume most of them were declared surplus by the U.S. Government at the end of the war as bases closed down and then were donated to jurisdictions requesting them.
Some units of note:
Upon examining the detail, the Co. 12 Great Falls 1942 Chevy is not an Oren according to Tommy Herman, the Oren expert. Another Chevy that was reported to have floated around the Fairfax County was originally assigned to Co. 77 Arlington, VA. and later Co. 74 Arlington. I cannot confirm if or where it was in use in Fairfax Co.unty.
The Co. 11 Penn Daw Chevy was a mystery until some sharp eyes solved the case. We are 95% sure that this truck served first at Penn Daw, then was moved to Co. 20 Gunston and finally moved to Co. 13 Dunn Loring who had it rehabbed by Maxim Co. in 1957. This would explain the replaced diamond plate running boards on the Dunn Loring truck (verified by Clyde Clark), the addition of the red cowl lights, bigger mirrors, and the switching of the ladder to the right side. One tell-tale detail that they are the same truck is the same gold leaf on the lower rear side of the front fender - it is unique.
Co. 19 Lorton had a Chevy 4X4 brush unit that appears to be an ex-military Class 325 with a front mounted pump.
A 1942 Chevy/Oren pumper was assigned to Co. 21 Navy-Vale. It was their first piece of apparatus. Comparing photos, it possibly came from Co. 18 Jefferson. If true, this would make it a 1942 rather than a 1944 as earlier thought.
Co. 10 1942 Chevy/Oren. Front mounted pump, dual hose reels.
Co. 11/13 1942 Chevy/Body builder unknown. No photo at the station but this rig clearly had a door seal that says “Penn Daw”. Based on the pump panel, this truck probably only had a 100-150 GPM pump. It appears to have then moved to station Co. 20 Gunston, then later moved to Co. 13 Dunn Loring who had the Maxim Co. rehab it in 1957.
Co. 12 1942 Chevy but not an Oren according to Tommy Herman. Body builder unknown.
Co. 18 1942 Chevy/Oren. Later sent to Co. 21 Navy-Vale.
Co. 19 1942 ex-military brush truck that came from nearby Ft Belvoir.
Co. 21 1942 Chevy/Oren. This was Navy Vale’s first piece. It appears to have come from Co. 18 Jefferson and was repainted white. Ironically, in 1976, Navy-Vale began painting all of their units white with a blue stripe.
(Credit to Jim O’Neale for the history & Ken Sanders collection for the photos.)
The Mount Vernon Volunteer Fire Department bought a new American LaFrance 1000 gallon per minute pumper in 1961. The new pumper was powered by a Boeing turbine engine, 502.10m, 330 HP @ 60 degrees F.
The motor was coupled to a Spicer 5 speed transmission, which went through a 2800 to 1 reduction gear. The Turbo idled at 19,500 rpm and red lined at 39,500 rpm. The tachometer said Rx-1000 not Rx-100. Exhaust came out of the top of the engine compartment through a stack at a temperature of 1300 degrees during normal operation. The starter motor turned at 8000 rpm to start the engine. To drive it, you put it in 5th gear and let out the clutch while stopped, then pushed on the accelerator pedal. No shifting was necessary. It also pumped in 5th gear.
The fuel control governor was a chronic problem and had to be replaced every year or two at a cost of $3500. It was so expensive because the mechanic had to be flown in from the Boeing plant in Seattle to repair it. Fairfax County funded the replacement of a few of the problem governors. However, around 1966 the County told the volunteers that they would fund one more governor repair OR they would pay to repower it with a 820 cubic inch 6 cylinder Continental gasoline engine.
In 1966 the decision made was to convert it to gasoline. The turbine engine was boxed up, sold and shipped to a race car builder in Washington State.
Around 1978 I removed the bell from the turbo while I was station commander of Company 9. At that time the pumper was being transferred to reserve status at Company 15.
The bell was gifted to me by the volunteers. After having it for almost 20 years, I gave the bell to Ken Jones, Deputy Chief Administration, to include in the proposed Fire Department Museum. It is now the ceremonial bell used at funerals and other special events.
Radio Roll Call
This is a recording made by Ken Neumann back in 1975. It contains the 1800 hour nightly Tone Test back when each station had to reply via base station radio, as well as various dispatches. Ken would go on to say "Here is a sound track of evening roll call of all stations plus a few calls that I recorded in the early seventies. I had to laugh at a patient report given to Fairfax Hospital over the main channel! Would love to know who that was". If anyone recognises any of the voices, please email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org and the information will be added to this post. Again, thanks to Ken Neumann for sharing this piece of history.
Click below to listen
From Kathy Bomar: Dispatcher - Bobby Sims
From Carl Maurice: Co 11 - Ron Mastin
From Tom Wealand: Co 13 - Alton Wood
From Steve St. Clair: Co 19 - Wayne "Howdy Doody" Green
Early Radio Traffic
This is a recording of Fairfax Fire Control on January 7, 1954 taken directly from the vinyl recording disc it was originally made on. Towards the end of the recording you will hear the voices of all 15 paid men who were employed at the time as they acknowledge an announcement regarding their requirement to begin filling out a timesheet to get paid. Thanks goes to Clyde Clark who donated the recording disc, Ed Dornack who donated his time and expertise in cleaning up and enhancing the recording for us and Clyde and Steve St. Clair for identifying the voices as listed below.
From Clyde Clark:
Having listened to the above referenced tape I am of the following opinions as to voices heard:
I believe the primary dispatcher was Arthur Smith. This opinion is in part due to the sound of the voice and the fact that he often repeated radio transmissions (as heard on this tape). A second dispatcher is heard at 24:10 in the tape and I am not familiar with this voice. Reviewing the EOC time sheet which you forwarded I do not believe the unidentified voices belong to any of those persons listed on the time sheet as each had a distinctive voice sound and quality.
At the time this tape was made (Jan. 1954) there were many itinerant dispatchers who came and went at the fire board - some in for a day and others for longer periods of time. Possibly this era is best considered as a "try out" period.
At 00:20 the voice of Tommy Gaines (Jr. Gaines) is heard on a piece from Co. 8.
At 00:40 the voice is that of Dutch Simpson from Co. 10.
At 03:30 the voice is that of Bob Hunter from Co. 2.
At 09:45 the voice is that of C.B. Newman (Bernie Newman) from Co. 9.
At 19:00 the voices of all 15 career personnel can be heard and for those that did not identify themselves the voices sound like the primary paid man at each station, i.e. Co 4 voice is not identified but certainly sounds like Oscar Costello.
From Steve St. Clair:
I listened to the tape one time and started jotting names down. The following is a list of names I came up with:
Co. 1 was Sam Redmond
Co. 2 was definitely Bob Hunter
Co. 3 was definitely Stuart Fox
Co. 8 was definitely Vince Guidi
Co. 9 was definitely Charlie Newman
Co. 11 was definitely Joe Dove
Co. 14 was definitely Marshall Curtis
Co. 15 was definitely Porter Hutchison
Co. 16 was Calvin Millen (Thanks Keith Pearson)
Co. 17 was definitely Harry Riggles
"96" was definitely Bill Sheads working as the Forest Warden.
I believe Maynard Wells was talking with Bernie Newman about the first brush fire Co. 9 was handling on Route 235 in reference to more assistance.
One of the dispatchers toward the end sounded like Horace Williams.
The names I was definite about were all voices I could identify from knowing them as a kid and later working with them.
Click below to listen
If you are a retired member of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications, or City of Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department simply click here for membership information, application, and payroll deduction forms. Once completed send them to Association at the address indicated on the forms via U.S. mail. Questions? We have answers, just complete the contact us form and we will back in touch with you.
Click Here To Follow
Fairfax Fire & Rescue