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Lincoln's first fire engine

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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In 1930, the Lincoln City Council approved the purchase of the city’s first fire engine to fight the “demon fire,” according to the March 20, 1930 edition of the News Messenger. Though it no longer meets the needs of the fire department, the city still owns it, and it makes appearances in parades and is slated to be a part of the upcoming Fireman’s Muster, according to Dave Lucas, a volunteer firefighter for the past 37 years. That fire engine, built by Seagrave, was delivered in May, 1930 and cost about $6,000. It had, according to the News Messenger, “an auxiliary pump which increases on the efficiency of our already efficient water force 100 per cent.” The engine served the city of Lincoln for more than 20 years, eventually being phased out in the 1950s, according to Lucas. “There’s a lot of history behind it,” Lucas said. “The fire department is proud to have it. A lot of cities don’t have this anymore.” The fire engine is almost entirely original, with the only modification being the addition of a windshield in the late 1940s or early 1950s, said Oliver Grey, who has served as a volunteer firefighter for more than 50 years with the city of Lincoln. The farthest it has been from the city since being shipped on a flatbed railcar from Ohio in 1930 was a trip to Folsom Prison for restoration. Though Grey said he doesn’t remember the year it was restored, he said he remembers it being put in a shop at the prison and being restored by inmates, one of which painted the gold accents by hand. “They did a really good job,” Grey said, “and it was free.” The fire engine was used on several fires as it served Lincoln, including the cannery fire in the 1940s, when water was drafted from the Auburn Ravine, Lucas said. The original engine – a straight six-cylinder with dual ignition – can be transferred to run the water pump or deliver power to the rear wheels. The odometer shows that since 1930, the engine has been driven 2,085 miles – an average of 26 per year. The “new” tires were put on about 20 years ago, and show little wear. At one point, burglars got to the antique engine, stealing most of the vintage items that weren’t bolted down. Fortunately, police were able to recover everything but the radiator cap. When it initially entered service, only one man was trained on its operation by the Seagrave technicians in Ohio – Ray Goodenough, the town jeweler, according to Grey. Whenever there was a fire, Goodenough closed his shop and headed to the fire station. The Lincoln Fire Departments antique Seagrave engine is just one of many that will be brought out for the inaugural Fireman’s Muster July 18-19. Also included in the muster will be a classic car show, firefighter competitions and a dinner dance the night of the 18th. All events are free, with the exception of the dinner dance, for which tickets are $15. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.