Johnstown firefighters showcase pumper

The city forked over $500 on April 25, 1867, for a brand-new Chemical Fire Engine.

The city forked over $500 on April 25, 1867, for a brand-new Chemical Fire Engine.

That hand-drawn pumper was restored to working order by city firefighters years ago, and the Fire Department uses it for special events and puts it on display in front of the station when the weather is nice.

Now Chief Bruce Heberer said his men are planning to build a glass-walled, illuminated enclosure to show it off.

Heberer said the engine was patented in 1867 and built in Newark, N.J.

After being retired by the city, it was donated to the Fireman’s Home Museum in Hudson. It was returned to the city in 1974, he said.

The pumper has two boxes, one for water and the other for a chemical agent to break up the surface tension of the water and make it more effective on flames.

There are handles on each side, and the apparatus was designed to be used by four men, two on each side using the handles in teeter-totter fashion to pump water on the fire.

A pumper goes for about $350,000 these days, and Heberer said the Chemical Fire Engine was probably capable of pumping about 10 gallons of water per minute.

“It wasn’t much more than a garden hose back then,” he said.

The wide hose lines used today usually run about 200 gallons per minute, he said.

The chief said assistant chiefs Mike Heberer and Dan Ackerknect designed the enclosure.

“We’ve been talking about it for years,” he said.

The enclosure will have four sides, three of which will be glass. The engine will also be illuminated at night.

“The design kind of resembles the building here,” the chief said.

He said building maintenance funds are available to pay for the materials and the firefighters will build it. Donations are also being accepted from the public, he said. No cost estimate was available.

Mayor Sarah Slingerland lauded the project in an interview Friday.

“The Fire Department is celebrating its 200th anniversary, so this is a great time to be doing that. It’s kind of neat that we still have it,” she said. “This will allow us to display it throughout the year.”

The Fire Department’s anniversary is part of the city’s celebration of its founding 250 years ago, and there are a number of special events planned.

“It’s kind of a nice history piece for the city as we celebrate these anniversaries,” the mayor said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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