The Wauseon Fire Department wants to restore a piece of the city’s history, and will look to the generosity of the community.
A 1916 Seagrave pumper fire truck purchased new by the department two weeks before the start of World War I sits in a corner of the fire station, mostly out of sight. Chief Rick Sluder and Austin Quillet, a department firefighter and paramedic, hope to change that with renovations that could get the antique vehicle running for the first time since the 198os.
During the weekend of March 18, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Seagrave with the fire department, the public will be invited to a fundraising open house at the Clinton Street station. Sluder and his staff will use the event as a kickoff to eventually raise about $50,000 to restore the chain-driven pumper truck to mobility.
It’s an ambitious project to repair the vehicle’s original radiator and to install a generator, among other improvements. It’s a costly venture, in part, because the radiator, composed entirely of nickel, must be sent for repair to The Brassworks, a California company specializing in antique restoration.
The open house is still in the development stage, but Wauseon firefighters want to invite the public to their station, likely provide breakfast, and showcase the Seagrave along with its history. Following that, the fundraising efforts will continue into the year until enough money is raised to complete the restoration.
The fire department began its efforts in January, and have established a GoFundMe account, a Facebook page, and a mention on its website to stimulate donations.
Quillet, whose interest in antiques helped spur the project, said it’s unfortunate the fire truck isn’t being enjoyed by more people.
“I just hated to see it not running and kind of sitting in the back. It’s one of those things we’re very lucky to still have,” he said.
The pumper truck was purchased March 19, 1917, for $1,000 from the Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company in Columbus. The first motorized fire apparatus in Fulton County, it was delivered to Wauseon’s fire department formerly located at Clinton and Depot streets.
The Seagrave was removed from service sometime in the 1950s, when buffalo model fire trucks were introduced and became the standard. Sluder said its continued use over 30-plus years was probably due to a lack of capital for new equipment during the Depression, followed by a focus on different priorities during World War II.
Through the late 1970s, and into the early 1980s, the pumper truck underwent a restoration by several retired Wauseon firefighters led by Clayton Nafziger. It was also repainted, and the wheels rebuilt by Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania.
It eventually found a home in the Erie Sauder Museum in Archbold, where it stayed until it returned to the Wauseon fire station in 2011.
Sluder said the fire truck should run with with the installation of its repaired radiator and a new generator. He said he’d like it featured in the city’s annual Homecoming parade, and possibly at other venues, for as long as it would remain operational. But the pump would not used.
“We will not get it to pump water again. Pumping water is just hard on it,” he said.
Quillet said the plan is to restore the truck so it may be displayed more prominently and instill a sense of pride in the city.
“I think it’s not only important for the fire department but just to help people grasp the history it has on this area,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.