The Crash

In the first post I made, I briefly mentioned that originally there were two identical trucks which were destroyed in a severe collision in 1968. Since this is a major part of the history regarding the restoration of Fire 32, I wanted to provide you with more details of that day along with some photos.

On a Tuesday evening in July, less than a year after my father passed away, the fire department was out on their weekly drill night, doing training on the west side of Mt Scott. For those not from the Portland area, Mt Scott is the tallest point in the Portland Metro area, topping out a little over 1,100 feet in elevation. The west side of the mountain was part of the fire district and included some of the areas steepest roads.   

According to Jerry Miller, who was a volunteer lieutenant, Fire 33 would not start when they were ready to return to the station. Concluding that the batteries were dead, he decided he would get the truck rolling down the hill and compression start it; unbeknown to him you could not compression start an automatic transmission. He jumped in the cab, released the parking brake and started rolling down the hill, only to find out the truck would not start. As he rounded the last corner and picked up more speed, he saw Fire 32 sitting at a stop sign at the bottom of the hill, waiting to make a turn. Fire 32, occupied by Morice Colvin and Wayne Frederickson, had been delayed while a girl on a bicycle made her way through the intersection. Just before pulling away, Mr. Colvin looked in his mirror and saw the other engine barreling down on them, having just enough time to yell at Frederickson to brace himself as they were going to get hit. The engines came together and ended up across the street strattling a deep ditch.

All three men were transported to the hospital and released, lucky that they were not seriously injured or killed. Miller said the only thing that saved him from more serious injury was he pulled his feet up onto the seat just before impact. Although the engines were equipped with seat belts, Miller was not wearing his and ended up hitting his head on the center post of the windshield, likely preventing him from being ejected from the cab. While he was released from the hospital that night, he has suffered from siezures through the years.

The crash left the Happy Valley Fire District without protection, as their nearly brand new, $30,000 pumpers had been destroyed. Within a few hours, reserve pumpers from neighboring districts were brought to the station for use by the Happy Valley fire fighters, and other districts stepped up their coverage at the far reaches of the fire district.

After consultation with several truck repair facilities, it was determined that the damage was too severe to repair, and the only logical option was to remove the cab from Fire 32 and place it on the front of Fire 33 after straightening the frame rails. One truck was totaled out by the insurance company and the district was given a check for $30,000 based of replacement value. The district then purchased a diesel powered 1968 American LaFrance Pioneer demo pumper.

Below are a few pictures of the wrecked trucks.




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