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Class A Engine
Purchased for $10,900, the 1946 American LaFrance (Type 601 Spartan) fire engine was in service at the South Haven Fire Department from September, 1945 thru 1981. Because it was ordered during World War II, the truck and especially the chrome and small items needed the approval of the War Appropriations Board. The pump was capable of providing 1,000 gallons per minute. It had a 100 gallon tank and an overhead carrier for a 45-foot three section ladder. In the late 1950s a larger 500 gallon tank and two hose reels were installed.
The original truck was operated by a twelve cylinder gasoline engine. The truck was sold to a local construction company and reacquired by the fire department in 1995. The engine was in disrepair and funding to rebuild it was too expensive. A diesel engine was purchased.
The engine is now used in parades and other community events.
The second commercially built fire engine (type 12 car, type 45 Triple Combination) to serve South Haven was put into service in March, 1923. It was built at a cost of $10,000 by the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company, Inc. of Elmira, N.Y. Its arrival via railroad generated a lot of excitement in the community. The truck had a 1,000 gallon a minute pump (a rarity in firefighting at that time), a hose bed and 40 gallon chemical tank.
Water from the fire pump was used to cool the engine when the truck sat stationary at a fire. After the water cooled the engine it was sent into the exhaust system where it created large amounts of steam. This is where we believe the nickname “Old Smokey” originated.
In 1932 the truck was damaged in an accident. It was repaired and remained in service through the late 1950s. The truck was believed to have been junked for scrap. Unbeknownst to the firemen it had been purchased by a Saugatuck, Mich. businessman who used it for parades and giving children rides. In October, 1997 “Old Smokey” was reunited with the department when it was donated back to the community.