North Adams Restores 1941 Fire Engine
|Fire Director Stephen Meranti, above, checks out the newly restored Engine No. 4. Left, Michael Milazzo of T&M poses in the cab. T&M did much of the body and paint work.
The pumper joined the Fire Department in 1941 and served the city for nearly 40 years. Old trucks tend to be traded in, sold off or left to rust away in a junkyard - but not No. 4.
The vintage fire truck was retained as a source of pride by the department, but at more than 60 years old, the Mack was definitely showing its age. Firefighters, students, volunteers and more than a dozen businesses stepped up to keep the pumper going.
"We really wanted to be here to thank everybody," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Thursday. "We went through this when it was starting construction ... now that it's done it's just spectacular. It's another way people can be proud of this community."
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said there were talks to refurbish the truck about seven years ago but it's taken some time and a lot of helping hands to get to this point.
"About four or five years ago we got it into McCann [Technical School] to get the body work done," said Meranti. "They cut out a bunch of rust over the fender wells and made new panels and created the running boards."
The students also installed an engine taken from the "parts" trolley stored at the Windsor Mill.
The major body work was done at T&M Auto on Curran Highway, where the truck was parked on Thursday morning.
"We got it in this spring, and put a ton of work in - body work and painting," said T&M owner Michael Milazzo, who estimated at least 500 hours were spent on the truck just this year. "A firetruck is a little bit larger than the cars we work on, more square footage, more to do."
Milazzo was involved in the initial discussions to rehab the truck.
"We've been discussing this project since '04 but it took it this long," he said, adding later that "we have a great community and there are a lot of people who don't realize how strong the community is."
In addition to work done by McCann students and Milazzo, a host of other businesses gave services, time and materials - from Dean's Quality Auto tuning the engine and rebuilding the exhaust to Sanford & Kid providing interior upholstery.
Meranti said firefighters spent many hours repairing and rebuilding parts of the truck and he and his sons, Mitchell and Matthew, rewired the vehicle. Both boys put in a lot of time, he said.
"One of the guys built the [shift] column because now it's an automatic, it was a standard," said Meranti, of the firefighters' efforts. "We built the ceiling and the headliner."
The truck had its public debut over the last months, including being exhibited at last weekend's Motorama.
"What I thought was really cool was the Memorial Day Parade, when this thing was put out in the community finished, two firefighters that actually served with the vehicle, fought fires with this vehicle, were riding it," said Mayor Richard Alcombright.
Retired firefighters Frank Rivers, now in his 90s, and Capt. John Ghidotti were aboard for the parade. Meranti thought Rivers was probably the third or fourth operator of the truck.
The Transcript noted that, "The cab seats seven men. The new truck is welcomed by the firemen with the approach of winter as they recall past experiences when they rode through sub-zero weather, snow and rainstorms on their way of fire here and in answer to emergency calls from other communities, such as Charlemont and Pittsfield."
Despite its debut this past spring, the truck isn't quite finished. The chrome and the dashboard needs refinishing, there are some more odds and ends to fix.
Rechroming the massive front grill alone is expected to cost $1,000.
The Fire Department is selling navy blue NAFD T-shirts that declare "The Mack is Back" for $15 to raise money for the project. Anyone wishing to purchase a shirt should contact the fire station.
The mayor said he envisioned the firetruck as a parade vehicle and a source of community pride that would be used for community and school events, and exhibited outside the city.
"They love it, everybody was very impressed by it and you can see the quality of work that's gone into this," said Meranti of the response so far. "I never dreamed of it looking as good as it actually does."
The city would like to thank the following: T&M Auto; Berkshire Valley Auto; Dean's Quality Auto; McCann Tech; Danes; Mister Tire; Berkshire Carpet Inc.; Ribco/ RI Baker; Sanford and Kid; Maryann King; North Adams firefighters; Berkshire Sign; Berkshire Transmission; Dunns Heating and Solar LLC.; Mark Tassone; Aubuchon Hardware and Berkshire County Construction.
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