A fire truck dating back to 1942 that came from the US during World War 2 under a lend lease agreement has been lovingly restored to its former glory thanks to a group of dedicated staff and volunteers at Warrnambool Fire Brigade.
The 1942 K4 International midship mounted pumper was originally stationed in Doveton, south east of Melbourne, before being bought in 1971 by Jack Barton the father of former Warrnambool Officer-in-Charge Henry Barton, and a mate of his.
After they restored it, it was used at events such as school fetes. But after a long illness Henry’s father passed away, and the pumper sat rusting in his mate’s backyard in Melbourne until 2003.
One night the Warrnambool brigade brigade management discussed how it would be a great idea for the brigade to take on a project, and the then Senior Station Officer Paul Marshall and volunteer firefighter Adrienne Anson suggested restoring an old fire truck.
A small band of members along with Henry, Paul and Adrienne travelled to Wandin to inspect the old pumper left to Henry by his father.
“It was looking in a pretty sad way,” Paul said. “There were various bits and pieces missing and the engine had been stripped, but it had potential.”
With the help of Melbourne Fire Museum the pumper was transported to Warrnambool.
Restoring an almost 80-year-old truck was never going to be easy, but fortune was smiling on Warrnambool brigade.
“One of the guys actually came across another identical truck sitting in a farmer’s paddock up here, and the only parts that were missing were the parts we found on that truck,” Paul said.
“The farmer ended up donating it as it was just sitting there rusting in his paddock.”
A group of 12 dedicated volunteers took a decade to restore the pumper.
“It was stripped down to the bare chassis and rebuilt from scratch,” Adrienne said. “We had some pretty talented guys working on the engine and the bodywork.
“It’s so great to see it up and running.”
As well as the many hours of work by the volunteers, many locals helped get the truck back on the road either in kind or at little cost.
Adrienne said it was sad that one of the station’s young volunteers passed away before it was completed.
“Matthew O’Neill had been a volunteer for the better part of a decade, starting as a Junior brigade member and then a firefighter.”
Adrienne said the pumper was used to honour the 26-year-old’s life. “The guys formed a guard of honour when his casket was carried, and they placed him on the truck before he was driven away.”
The pumper will be housed at Warrnambool Fire Brigade after some more minor works to complete the project, and kept as a showpiece of the dedication and commitment of all Warrnambool firefighters.