Freeze column: Restoring firetruck a dream now within reach

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

Terry Smith and David Morris had a dream back in 2009. They wanted to restore a 1941 American LaFrance aerial truck, originally built in 1941 and used by the Salisbury Fire Department before being stored for years in a farmer’s barn.
“A man bought it to paint his barn,” Battalion Chief David Morris said.
After the farmer died, his family offered it back to the city of Salisbury.
“We jumped at the chance when it was offered to us,” Morris said.
The restored truck is planned as a tribute to deceased and retired firefighters.
Battalion Chief and Fire Marshal Terry Smith joined Morris with an idea of how to raise the funds needed to restore the truck. Smith, an avid runner, decided to explore the idea of having a 5K run and using the proceeds to get the truck back on the road. Smith and Morris approached the Salisbury Rowan Runners Club for help with the logistics of the race.
They then went to see Ester Marsh at the JF Hurley YMCA about using the building as headquarters for the race. Finally, they recruited help from active and retired firefighters, as well as from the Women’s Auxiliary.
From that meager start with just over 60 participants, the Salisbury Fire Department St. Patrick’s Day 5K grew to more than than 200 participants in its third year. The 2012 edition will be the fourth annual event, and already there is a lot of excitement. Smith is again the race director and is excited that the actual restoration of the truck is getting close.
There is enough money for this year’s initial phase of the new tires, brakes and engine work. The next phase will include restoration of the truck body, a job that will be done by prisoners at the Piedmont Correctional Center. That portion of the work will be extensive and costly, with at least $22,000 already needed.
The truck has been on a waiting list for the work to be done by the prisoners, and Smith hopes that this work can begin soon. “The work would cost much more if it is done somewhere else,” he said.
Smith points out the many unique things about the truck. The truck is 32 feet long and is equipped with an 80-foot ladder. There is an old-fashioned light and siren mounted in the middle of the hood. It has a “life-net,” a trampoline-type contraption used to catch people who jumped from burning buildings. There is no cab over the driver’s seat. Firemen stood on the running boards of the truck when it was called into service.
The truck has a V-24 engine and a stick shift transmission, with no power steering or power brakes. “Aerial Co. No. 1” is painted on the side.
Morris and Smith hope to return the truck to the public eye soon. It would be used in parades and other public events. Smith has other ideas
“My hope is to see the truck at the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day 5K,” he said. “Runners and walkers could come out and see what we are so excited about.”
The Salisbury Fire Department St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run/Walk is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. The JF Hurley YMCA on Jake Alexander Boulevard will host the event, with the registration and post-race celebration held in the new gym area. The race start is in the Harris Teeter parking lot, and the course proceeds onto Brenner Avenue to Old Wilkesboro Road before turning left on Partee Street. Runners and walkers then continue with a right on Monroe, another right on Fulton, right again on Lincolnton and will then run behind High Rock Church to finish on the JF Hurley track.
All participants will get a commemorative dri-fit shirt and plenty of post-race food and drinks. Awards will be presented in 14 age groups and to the overall winners for both males and females. More information and a printable copy of the race brochure are available at and online registration is available at www.
Smith can be reached at 704-239-0205.
“It’s a fast and enjoyable course, and I hope that anyone interested will come out to help us honor all of Salisbury’s Fire Fighters by joining with us in what really is a celebration of our rich history,” Smith said. “We are expecting that March 10 will be a great day.”