AFD Treasures 1920 Seagrave Pumper

Alameda Fire Department
Firefighters (left to right) Victor J. Rulofson, Dwight Brown, Dave Green and Alec McEwing show off AFD’s 1920 Combination Pumper in 1930.

AFD Treasures 1920 Seagrave Pumper

Alameda Fire Department’s (AFD) Seagrave Model 760 pumper is approaching an important milestone. Dec. 20 marks the 100th anniversary of AFD placing the apparatus in service as Engine No. 2. Seagrave’s creation was one of a pair of triple-combination pumpers that the department purchased in the wake of the Jan. 7, 1920, fire that devastated Park Street in the neighborhood of Webb and Lincoln avenues. The fire came within a whisker of burning Fire Station No. 1 that stood on Webb at that time.

Some seven weeks after the blaze, on March 19, 1920, AFD purchased the pumpers. Each boasted a three-fold system that consisted of a water tank, a pump to deliver the water and hoses to disperse the water onto a fire. Seagrave built the pumpers at its Columbus, Ohio plant. The city paid the then-39-year-old company $23,750 for the apparatuses, some $312,000 in today’s money.

On Dec. 20, 1920, Seagrave delivered both pumpers to the city. That same day, they underwent and passed engine-service tests using water from the Neptune Beach swimming pools. Both these engines served AFD until one of them was damaged beyond repair, perhaps on Oct.30, 1929, while fighting a wharf fire at Encinal Terminals near the Del Monte warehouse on Buena Vista Avenue.

Engine No. 2 survives to this day. The department first placed No. 2 in service at Fire Station No. 1 on Webb Avenue. AFD then moved the Seagrave pumper to Station No. 2.

In the 1940s, the department paid Hall-Scott Motor Car Company in Berkeley for a more up-to-date engine to for the pumper. “By repowering its Seagrave with a Hall-Scott engine, the Alameda Fire Department found that our Model 177 engine gave its pumper greater maneuverability on the highway, greater reliability of engine performance and an increased pumping performance,” Hall-Scott boasted in an advertisement that featured a photograph of Engine No. 2.

AFD sold Engine No. 2 in the 1950s. The venerable pumper spent some time in storage until it found homes: at the State of California Medical Facility in Vacaville in 1955, and later at the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista.

Engine No. 2 stayed at Rio Vista until 1974, when the museum traded it to the Suisun Fire Protection District for a 1948 Dodge Power Wagon. The district’s fire fighters partially restored Engine No. 2 and rechristened it “The Red Baron.” The district called the then-70-year-old pumper into service in 1990 to help fight a lumber yard fire.

On August 6, 1999, the City of Alameda expressed an interest in bringing “The Red Baron” home and giving it back its original name “Engine No. 2.” The city opened negotiations with the owners in Suisun. The parties agreed to trade fire equipment for the 79-year-old pumper.

Assistance from many people helped the city bring Engine No. 2 back home. Volunteers pitched in to help restore and maintain AFD’s beloved Seagrave Model 760 pumper. These include Rich Davis, Rich Bennett, Doug Clifton, Ken Rankin, Charles Daniels, Chris Davis, Harold Hathaway, Scott Carnavale, Steve Jones, Jim Scarborough, Mike Fisher, Dan Nunes Erik Coker and Bob Pogue.

Volunteers repaired Engine No. 2’s transmission in 2011. The task involved disassembly, sourcing of parts and reassembly. “We found that someone had already replaced the engine’s second gear,” said Capt. Rich Bennett, AFD ret.

“We discovered that Anderson Manufacturing Company made this gear not only right here in Alameda, but even closer to home on Webb Avenue across the street from Fire Station No.1,” said Capt. Rich Davis, AFD, ret.. This particular gear was in good condition and the volunteers were able to reuse it when they rebuilt the transmission.

The very same Park Street fire that prompted the purchase of Engine No. 2 destroyed Anderson’s building at 1520 Park Street at Webb Avenue. After the fire, Anderson built a new brick masonry structure just a half a block away at 2411 Webb Ave. — just across from today’s Sandwich Board. Anderson Manufacturing reopened just six months after the fire at its Webb Avenue address.

At the time, Fire Station No. 1 stood at the site of today’s parking lot next door to the Sandwich Board. Fire Station No. 1 moved to its present-day location on Encinal Avenue at Park Street in 1969.

According to the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, by 1935, Anderson Manufacturing Company’s products included industrial airplane parts and automatic factory door openers. It’s unclear when Anderson retooled Engine No. 2’s transmission’s second gear.

The Alameda Fire Department treasures its 100-year-old pumper. It continues to receive some well-deserved tender-loving care at its home in the old Fire Station No. 5 at Alameda Point and has thrilled onlookers at Alameda’s Fourth of July Parade over the years.

“Old Engine 2 is an important part of the city of Alameda’s history,’ said Acting AFD Chief Ricci Zombeck. “The city has proudly provided the most-modern fire equipment throughout our history, today and 100 years ago. We are very happy to have this important part of AFD’s history here at home.”