WESTVILLE, N.S. – At any fire station in the area, it’s always a jubilant time when a new fire engine arrives.
Many months, sometimes years of planning and fundraising goes into such an event.
In Westville on Aug. 12 it wasn't the excitement of a new piece of apparatus arriving, but the coming home of an old faithful of the department.
In 1948, Westville Town Council, after consultation with residents, approved the purchase of a state-of-the-art pumper. The LaFrance engine on a GMC 5 Window Chassis, costing $9,000, was state of the art in its time.
The unit served Westville and surrounding area well until 1974, when it was replaced by a new pumper and placed in reserve.
Westville Fire Department deputy chief Tom Steele remembers the last call for the unit.
“It was the Legion Hall fire in September 1976.
"Chief Bert Hale asked Sid Stewart and myself to go back to the fire station and get the old engine as we needed the 45-foot ladder that it carried, plus we ran a supply line to the hydrant on Church Street."
Fire department historian George Dooley has gathered quite the file on the engine. Dooley said according to info he has, the truck purchase was pushed by Coun. Emmerson Wilson and adopted by town council. He goes on to recall the truck can pump 500 gallons a minute and carried 125 gallons of water.
“It had a hose reel with (a one-inch) hose plus 2,500 feet of 2.5-inch hose.
In areas without hydrants, water would be pumped from Bear Brook or Skinners Brook. The GMC Chassis was classed as a "high rider" and was able to travel through deep snow and mud.
In the early 80s, with new equipment arriving, it was stored in various locations in the county then given up as surplus to a former Westville resident. Around the late 90s, it found its way to Ontario and was forgotten.
“It wasn't until a month ago that former Westville resident John D Allen saw an ad on Kijiji that the old engine was for sale in Ontario at a cost of $5,000,” Steele said.
“He quickly contacted Fire Chief Ken Dunn, who spread the info to current members, who all were excited to see the truck returned to Westville. For many, their only views were in old photos, but a way to purchase the truck was out of the question at this time.”
Chief Dunn was adamant about the idea of it getting it back into town.
"The department had just finished Phase 1 of the Victoria Park Project and were in the planning stages of the next phase. Monies raised had to go to that project as promised, plus we had no place to store the unit."
On the sideline, firefighter Bill Chace had contacted the owner of the truck and once the seller heard the history, he knew it had to be sent home. He immediately took it off Kijiji, even though he had many offers to sell, to wait to see it something would develop.
A post and a few photos on the Facebook site 'Westville Past n Present" got people talking. Suggestions to raise money came from business people and citizens alike.
One particular business understood the Ontario owner would not wait forever for the department to raise the cash and stepped forward to purchase the truck. Andre and Rhonda Cougias, owners of the Acropole Pizza and Pub, contacted Chace and stated their intention to donate the funds to purchase the fire truck.
Chace’s next quest was to find temporary and longer-term storage. Once this was secured, he approached the membership for approval.
In 2024 the Westville Fire Department will celebrate its 150th anniversary. Over the next few years, the painstaking task of restoring the unit will be carried out. Members are also hoping that through time the pump can be made workable to again pump water.
“It will be a Parade Unit,” Steele said, “travelling to various events in the area, plus other events around the province."