Fired up about antique fire trucks

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Boys never outgrow their love for red firetrucks. That is quite evident when you see the number of males of all ages who attended the 20th Annual Antique Fire Apparatus Show at Veterans Memorial Park in Germantown on Saturday, July 9. There’s just something about a red, shiny firetruck that boys, their dads and granddads, can’t get enough of.

When Larry Suttman of Kettering was a little boy growing up in Miamisburg, he wanted a real fire engine. He was well into adulthood before he could buy one. But before that, he collected the next best thing: red lights, sirens, bells, exhaust whistles, and extinguishers.

He finally got what he really wanted, a 1937 Open Cab 500 GPM Seagrave Pumper after he and his wife, Maria, had purchased a bigger house. The new home had a longer driveway and a much larger garage.

“[I thought] Wow! Yes! Now I can get my very own fire truck,” says Suttman, editor of the Miami Valley Antique Fire Apparatus Association’s newsletter, Nozzle Notes. “The body was rust-free, in beautiful condition.”

There are 81 current members of the MVAFAA; about 35 of them were showing off their antique firetrucks that day.

Another MVAFAA member, Bob McClain of Germantown, had organized the show the first 19 years with his wife, Rachel. They were at the festival showing off their 1950 GMC/Young mini-pumper, and 1953 Lyman Fire Boat. A 1968 American LaFrance that he and his son, Matt, restored, had been recently sold for $13,000 to a buyer in Massachusetts.

“The LaFrance is the cadillac of firetrucks. I first became interested in antique fire trucks when my son was a volunteer firefighter in Germantown. We bought this firetruck together many years ago as a project,” said McClain, MVAFAA past president and current treasurer. “I also transformed a Lyman boat made in Sandusky into a fireboat by adding a siren light and deck gun.”

They initially bought the LaFrance for $3,500; it needed a lot of new parts and sweat equity to bring it to its current great condition. M. McClain moved up in his firefighting career, eventually working full-time in Dayton for 15 years before being promoted to captain of the second platoon.

“I like working in the big city; we keep busy and average a good-sized fire a day,” said McClain, MVAFAA vice-president who was at the show with his 6-year-old son, Brigham. “I sold the LaFrance because my wife, Trisha, and I just had a new baby girl, Cambri. It’s time for a new adventure.”

What does McClain like best about being captain of a large fire station in Dayton?

“You get to ride in firetrucks and play with the siren and the horn.”

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