Where it all started

As I mentioned previously, my father was the fire chief of the Happy Valley Fire District, which is located on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. He never thought of being a fire chief, it just happened. When my parents began building our house, he wanted to see what was available for fire protection in Happy Valley, as it was a rural area and considered “out in the sticks” in the early 50’s. What he discovered was that there was a fire district with three board members, one broken down fire truck and a few “rag-tag” volunteers. The board members must have felt either they had a real sucker on their hands or they had found a true leader, because they offered the position of fire chief to my father if he wanted the job. He took it and never looked back.

While knocking on doors and trying to round up people to be volunteer firemen, he was learning how to be a fireman himself. He had no training in firefighting, just a Mechanical Enginering degree from Oregon State University and a Professional Engineers certificate. Over the next few years, the Happy Valley Fire District developed into a well trained organization, with more than 25 volunteers, a new station  and several well used peices of apparatus. The time had come for the district to purchase new fire equipment, and this would be the opportunity for my father to put those engineering skills to work.

I was born in 1960, so obviously I was too young to be aware of much regarding the development of Fire 32, but I have been able to learn quite a bit from materials I found looking through my father’s things. What I do know is that his original concept was based on a chassis built by the White Freightliner Company that was designed for use on fire trucks, called the Fireliner . I found a hand drawn rendering and a blueprint showing the Fire 32 body design on the Fireliner chassis, so it appears that was the chassis of choice, but White Freightliner stopped production of the chassis before the fire district was ready to go out to bid.  There were just a handful of fire trucks built on the Fireliner chassis, all built in 1961. The next choice of chassis was the relatively new Ford C Series cabover, and he chose to use the big C-1000 with a 534cu. in. gas engine.

The fire district did finally go to bid in December of 1963, with the contract awarded to Industrial Steel Tank and Body Works in Berkeley, California, who built fire trucks under the name Wesco. Industrial Tank and Body Works had purchased the fire truck construction business that had previously operated under the names Westland and Roney out of Portland. My father had done some engineering work on the side for Doug Roney, who was the previous owner and now the Sales Manager for Wesco. Based on the complexity of the design, it is obvious that the award would go to Wesco, as no one else was willing to build a vehicle so complicated without being inolved in the design.

Here is the Fireliner rendering


Here is his rendering on the Ford C series


Happy Valley Fire in 1961
Left to right: FFN-3 Navy high pressure pumper (the first fire truck), 1941 Chevrolet pumper, 1942 Ford pumper, 1948 Packard first aid vehicle (retired hearse), 1953 GMC tanker, 1959 Ford chiefs car (our family station wagon).


Take a look at the Happy Valley station today!


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