VICTORIA FIRE DEPARTMENT
1925 American LaFrance Type 45 Combination Pumper
Registration no. 4421 engine No. 2858
In 1958, almost a century after the formation of the Department, the VFD retired its first motorized pumper after thirty-three years of service. When the apparatus joined the roster in August 1925, it was an important event: the new state-of- the- art pumper replaced the last vestiges of horse-drawn, steam- powered firefighting apparatus in VFD service.
Purchased from the Canadian American LaFrance Fire Engine Co. Ltd. of Toronto, the new Type 45 combination pumper was powered by a LaFrance 6 cylinder gasoline engine. A powerful engine was a necessity. The new truck had to carry a 750 gpm rotary- geared pump, a ladder, 1200 feet of 2 ½” hose, and heavy hard suction hose, as well as the crew and their equipment. In the past, it took three separate horse drawn vehicles to ensure that all this same amount and type of equipment would arrive at a fire on time and, significantly, all at the same time.
The chain drive rather than drive shaft used on the VFD Type 45 was common on the majority of LaFrance apparatus—worm drive was available—but chains were efficient and relatively easy to maintain. When returning from a run, chain driven apparatus had to be backed into their bays so as to ensure that the chains were tight and ready to go.
Another feature of this apparatus was a searchlight mounted on the cowl, which came in handy in era when street lighting was poor and portable lighting nonexistent.
All apparatus evolves in the fire service, being continually upgraded. A decision had to be made as to whether these changes would be included in the restoration: it was decided that the goal of the restoration should achieve configuration as close to its original configuration as possible consistent with safety and the availability of parts.
The apparatus, was decommissioned from both frontline and reserve service with the Victoria Fire Department in 1958. It was placed in storage off site for more than four decades, a key factor in its preservation.
The restoration of this significant vehicle was made possible by generous funding from the B.C. Gaming Branch, the support of the City of Victoria, the Victoria Fire Department, and numerous donors.
This piece of apparatus is still owned by the Department in the form of the Victoria Fire Department Historical Society. It’s members, many of whom are retired or serving fire fighters, carried out the disassembly and much of the hands-on restoration.
Text: David Parker, Historian/Curator, VFDHS
Photo: Frank DeGruchy, VFDHS
The `25 taking part in the 2005 Victoria Day Parade, the first since restoration.
(Photos: Dr. George Lynn, VFDHS)