Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TOP STORY >> Fire trucks on parade

Leader staff writer

One of Sherwood’s first firefighters will be hitching a ride Saturday on the truck he used to battle blazes decades ago.

The attraction will be part of the annual chamber of commerce Christmas parade on Kiehl Avenue at 2 p.m.

Fire Chief David Teague said 91-year-old Bernard Olds is the only living person he could find that is pictured with the city’s first fire truck in an old photograph.

Firefighter Jodie Hartman said its body and frame were completed in 1949 and the engine was finished in 1951. It arrived in Sherwood on Sept. 22 of that year, according to “The Signs Say Sherwood” by Ailene Duran.

American Le France made the pumper and Dodge manufactured the truck.

Teague said World War II delayed production for a couple of years.

The chief said Olds seemed nostalgic when he saw the truck, which was used until the mid-1970s. Trucks are normally used for 20 years and they are usually a reserve truck for the last five years of that, Teague said.

Olds said he remembered helping the Sylvan Hills Voluntary Fire Association with several fires — including one at a house on Kiehl Avenue that left two people dead.

“We would swap. They would help us sometimes and we would help them sometimes. We went when they called us,” he said.

Olds said his crew traveled in that truck to an annual convention in Hot Springs. The convention is still held there.

He said he became a firefighter when he was in his 30s “because it was needed.” Olds said he couldn’t recall when he retired or how many years he spent with the department.

Hartman said that back in Olds’ time, Sherwood was the area between North Hills Boulevard and Club Road. The houses stopped after a quarter of a mile, he added.

According to Ailene Duran’s book, “The Signs Say Sher-wood,” there were only 220 houses in Sherwood in 1950.

Before the 1949 model came out, firefighters were using Ford Model Ts with water tanks attached to them, Hartman said.

Olds was invited to visit the station at 505 Sherwood Ave. this week to see the old truck and the new ones.

He said, with a laugh, “The only thing I recognized is the hoses and fire axes.”

The old truck has a 300-gallon tank and pumps 250 gallons of water per minute.

One of the 2001 trucks the department uses now has a 750-gallon tank and pumps 1,500 gallons per minute.
Hartman said the trucks firefighters have now haul more equipment, so the carrying capacity is much greater.

He said today’s firefighters have more responsibilities than just putting out fires. They also respond to car wrecks, medical calls, hazardous chemical spills and other emergencies.

The old truck is being stored at the department’s first station, a 24-by-36-foot metal building, which is located next to the current station.

Olds added that he thinks he still knows how to drive the old model.

Hartman said the department is restoring the older truck to its former glory with help from Mayden Tire, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Gwatney Collision.

He said the truck has been sitting for at least 20 years and that the last fire chief, Frank Hill, bought it back from the city in 2006. Hartman said he thinks the department purchased it for $1.

Teague said the truck may have been in a parade on Country Club Road during the 1990s, but it has not been in one since the location changed to Kiehl Avenue.