The vintage fire truck we’ll look at today is a heck of an impressive sight, a real head-turner, doubly so when all lit up at night. For a couple decades it was employed at a small town British Columbia fire department, but today is used by a Calgary firm, Springbank Christmas Lights. Not just a rolling advertisement or some brought-out-on-special-occasions showpiece, it is put to work and near every day it’s out in the field on a job.
Using the platform equipped extendable boom, they might use it to place festive lights one day or assist in the removal of a tree the next. If what needs to be done is high up or out of the way and access near impossible to reach, these are the fellows you call. Mixing it up, they might also show up at your child’s birthday party. A real fire truck…at MY party! What kid wouldn’t be blown away by that?
The truck chassis, so the cab, frame and all drive train components, came from maker Scot Trucks of Debert Nova Scotia. That company was in business from 1972-1980. Not a terribly large producer, most of their output was sold in Eastern Canada. Still, some vehicles from them found their way out west mostly as fire apparatus. This one is a 1978 model although some documents list it as a ’77. Doesn’t really matter.
Scot also made cab-over vocational trucks (same cab as fire trucks), conventional over the road tractors and even some large mine dumps. In the end, they just couldn’t compete however and closed up shop after an eight year run. It’s said Scot built about eleven hundred vehicles of all types of which perhaps four or five dozen or so (a very rough estimate), were fire chassis.
The maker of the fire apparatus, so all the stuff behind the cab, was King (earlier King-Seagrave) of Woodstock Ontario. They would take bare chassis from various truck makers, turning them into pumpers, tenders, ladder trucks and the like. The one here is called a snorkel and has a highly-mobile aerial platform equipped with a large water gun (the snorkel). The far-reaching boom would allow a fire to be fought from above or give access to places where obstacles prevent getting close in on foot.
The truck is also equipment with a large internal water tank for use in places that lacked hydrants. In a pinch water could also be sucked from a nearby pond or stream.
King was prolific maker of fire equipment dating back to the 1950s. They closed down in the 1980s. Of all Scot fire chassis produced, a fair number carried King apparatus, although a couple other Canadian Fire Truck makers used them as well. Both the King name and Scot name and their unique thistle logo appear on the vehicle.
The truck, a model C1FD, has a non-tilt cab (some did) and is powered by a V6 Detroit Diesel “Screaming Jimmy” (for the sound they make – Jimmy: a nickname for General Motors who owned DD). Located mid-ship behind the cab, the engine is mated to an automatic transmission. It also powers the water pump(s) and the boom’s hydraulic system.
There is three across seating in the cab. Shotgun! Flanking the engine doghouse, one on each side, and barely protected by a cab overhang, are jump seats for two more fire personnel. With that roaring engine the noise would have been incredible if sitting here! Must have been a ton of fun in the heat of summer/cold of winter or travelling down some dusty back road.
The boom length is fifty five feet (or about 17m) with a usable reach of about 30 feet (or 9m). Massive outriggers stabilize the truck while it’s in use.
The truck originally came from Revelstoke British Columbia. The town fire department purchased it new. Retied in 2013/2014, concurrent with the delivery its replacement, it languished for a time at a town in the Okanagan before being picked up by the current owner, Andy Hill of Springbank Christmas Lights. A little work, a little paint, a few quick customizations and he put it right to work.
Fire trucks, even old ones like this, often have low mileage, account the limited use they see, and this one is no exception. The odometer read around 17k miles (odd, kms should have been used by that time) and the time clock reading 900 hours, when he picked it up. They now show 21k and 1800hrs respectively. Business has been good and he’s kept the truck busy.
Andy remarks just how overbuilt everything is. Robust seems an understatement. It was always well maintained, of course, and still is. Everything works, the pumps and even the emergency lights – he could find himself in trouble if caught using the latter. Anyway, it looks like a real working fire truck and functionality wise, it completely is. It came with all manuals.
Fuel mileage, I guess, is surprisingly good and the truck drives and accelerates well. It’s a unique vehicle for sure and as a giant mobile billboard of sorts, commands much attention (cars on the nearby highway slowed to watch us work). Smart move, as its uniqueness means everyone’s sure to remember it and that’s good for business.
Maintenance of the truck is handled by Andy himself. Being a former oil field mechanic means that’s a piece of cake.
He also mentions just how light overall his fire truck is, which seems odd given its massive size. This comes in handy since he sometimes has to travel across areas of soft soil or even onto lawns (driving over plywood so no marks are left). If the internal water tank was to be filled, of course, the overall weight would be much higher. No need for that though.
Andy has dressed up the truck with many lights. It’s a looker in daylight, no doubt, especially resplendent in traditional fire engine red, but is simply stunning come dark.
Springbank Christmas Lights has a number of employees beside Andy himself. Safe to say none have a fear of heights. Business has been so good, he’s looking to expand and acquire a second fire truck. He has his eye on one, also from BC, which interestingly is an almost identical Scot/King combo. It has a longer boom, a plus perhaps, since on some jobs his current one comes up a wee bit short.
Andy’s firm was born of necessity. With his job in the oil industry gone, he searched for something to do. Armed with nothing more than a simple, albeit crazy sounding plan, a dash of fearless abandon and a big heap of that indomitable Alberta entrepreneurial spirit, he jumped on the idea. Would it work? Will anyone want someone with a fire truck to put up Christmas Lights? As it turned out, yes. And the rest is history.
Visit Andy’s website…
Springbank Christmas Lights
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: April, 2016.
Location: Ghost Lake, AB.
Article references and thanks: Andy Hill of Springbank Christmas Lights, Canadian Fire Truck Archive, TruckFax by Mac MacKay.