Boynton’s First Fire Engine

For this blog, we are pleased to have a second installment from guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department. – BBHS Editors

In June 1925, a representative from the American La France Fire Engine Company traveled to Boynton Beach to visit with Fire Chief Charles Senior. The chief was so impressed with the presentation, he requested Mayor Knuth to call a special meeting for later that evening. The mayor and other council members agreed to meet, and shortly thereafter, a deal was struck. The company was trying to sell a fire engine that was involved in an accident in Perry, Florida.

Original hand-cranked siren from the 1910 American La France Fire Engine Company purchased by the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1915

Original hand-cranked siren from the 1910 American La France Fire Engine Company purchased by the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1925

The 1910 model fire engine had been returned to the factory and was completely restored to its original condition. The Town of Boynton Beach decided to purchase the truck for the remaining payments, thus ushering in the fire apparatus era.

The fire engine was basically a 500 gallon per minute pumper, complete with a 30 gallon auxiliary soda acid chemical tank, right hand drive and solid rubber tires. The truck was equipped with 1000 feet of 2 ½” hose and 200 feet of 1” chemical hose. Other features included two 10-feet by 4-inch suction hose, an axe and a pry bar.

It was delivered to Boynton Beach on July 4, 1925 by Ray Larabee. He was the chief engineer and mechanic for American La France at that time and drove the truck to Boynton Beach from Jacksonville, most likely using the old auto trail known as the Atlantic Highway. The 300 mile trip began prior to the opening of U.S. Highway 1, and must have been an onerous journey for Larabee, traveling on those unforgiving tires under the searing Florida sun.

It is interesting and remarkable to note that this fire engine was still in service during the 1950s. It was eventually decommissioned after 30 years of service, and then sold to a gentleman in Miami, Florida in 1957 for $350.00.

At the time of the sale, Fire Chief Senior was quoted as saying; “The truck is a rough rider with solid rubber tires and an engine that purrs like a Cadillac.”

The hand-crank siren was removed prior to the sale and is currently on display at Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department’s Fire Station No. 5.

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

 

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