Colwood firefighters restore vintage truck

Over 30 years ago “Old 53” sped through the streets of Colwood for the last time

Kyle Wells/News staff Colwood Volunteer Firefighters Association treasurer John Rufh

Over 30 years ago “Old 53” sped through the streets of Colwood for the last time, siren blasting, ready to put out a blaze.

Now, with the help of the community, the fire truck has been restored to its former glory.

The Colwood Volunteer Firefighter’s Association has restored the 1944 International fire truck that served the community until 1979.

Association members discussed fixing up the old truck for some time, but it wasn’t until the idea came about to take money raised by the association’s annual golf tournament that the project got rolling.

Over the course of a few years enough money was raised to complete the work. Money from corporate donors helped top off the $23,000 grand total.

The truck started life as an airport crash truck before Saanich purchased it. Colwood bought it from Saanich in 1957.

Current Colwood Capt. Frank Gale was the last person to drive the truck in active service. He said six firefighters would ride on the truck that hauled 500 gallons of water.

“It was fun,” Gale said. “Very different because it’s old technology.”

After it went out of service, the association bought the truck from the fire protection district for $1 and it sat in storage. Its current home is in the Colwood Firefighters’ Museum beside the Colwood fire hall.

Before restoration the truck was running but showed its age through dents, dings and a deteriorating paint job. Cowichan Collision did the restoration work at a reduced rate.

“Without their help we couldn’t have done it for the kind of cost that we did it for,” association president Bill Naylor said.

He felt it was a shame to see the truck sitting in the museum looking a little rough.

“This wasn’t in horrible shape, but sitting side-by-side with a truck that was restored was night and day,” Naylor said. “It’s like a hot rod. … You want to fix it up and make it look cool.”

As a modern firefighter Naylor said he can’t imagine fighting fires from old trucks like the International. It would be fun to ride on the back, he added, but that’s something that work safety rules would never allow nowadays.

Compared to the new trucks the difference is immense, Gale said. The idea is the same, running water through a hose, but everything surrounding that basic function has evolved.

“It’s come a long ways,” Gale said.

 

The truck will continue to be used for parades and special events, as well as remaining a fixture at the museum.