Osceola Volunteer Fire Department purchased its first water-pumping truck in 1930 after 10 years of pushing for the truck following the death of firefighters Dick Eggleston and George Griffin during a fire on the square Oct. 8, 1917.
That truck, a 1928 American LaFrance, was commissioned out of service to OVFD around 1945. As the years passed, the truck was thought to be lost to time, with no one knowing its whereabouts.
That was until May 14, 2018, when the owners of the truck reached out to OVFD Captain Corey Clark.
In a letter written by Clark, he describes himself as “at a loss for words. I had never heard a word about this truck.”
The current owners of the truck purchased the truck at auction and planned to restore the truck to original. In the process, the current owners found out it previously belonged to OVFD and called looking for photos and more information.
Except OVFD had no photos or information on the truck, because much of the department’s historical data was lost in a fire at the old fire station in the 1980s.
“It took me a couple of weeks to find any information at all on it,” Clark said. “I have found one guy here in town that his dad was on the department at the time and he can remember the truck.”
When Clark traveled to Sedalia, Missouri, to pick up the truck, he removed the seat and found a seat tag signed by the commissioner of public safety for the state of Iowa, and it had Osceola on the tag.
“That was kind of the defining moment that it was ours,” Clark said.
Currently, the truck sits parked at the OVFD station and can be viewed through the large glass windows.
But, in order to keep the truck, OVFD needs to raise enough funds to purchase the truck and get it road worthy.
Clark estimates the needed amount at $25,000 to purchase and restore the truck to working, driving condition.
“It was kind of a gentleman’s handshake – they just let the truck go, not knowing me and me not knowing them. It’s a really nice family,” Clark said. “They think it needs to be here where it was originally at, so that’s why they gave us a price cut from the other people interested in it, so we get first shot.”
The clock is ticking on raising the necessary funds, however. Clark said the department has been doing various fundraisers and writing grants. Currently, OVFD has raised $7,500 toward purchasing the truck.
But, Clark said money needs to be raised within the next 30 to 60 days before “we’re probably going to have to send it back and we’ll lose it forever.”
The significance of the truck’s history in Osceola makes it a priority for Clark to keep in the community.
“That’s why it’s important to bring it back, because of the history and what it still means to the community,” he said.
Funds raised during the 25th Annual Fire Fair chili and potato soup supper will go toward the purchase of the truck. The 25th Annual Fire Fair is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Osceola Fire Station and features fire truck rides, fire extinguisher demonstration and emergency vehicle displays.
If purchased, Clark said the department plans to get the truck road worthy and use it for education purposes.
“[We’ll] use it for education and history of the fire service, taking it to car shows, to the schools, to the civic events, stuff like that,” Clark said. “Get it out for parades and get people drawn to the fire service and fire safety.”
Clark encourages Osceola residents to come see the truck at the fire station. Already, it has drawn many visitors.
“There was actually a group traveling through from France. They were amazed because that’s where this company originated and they were ecstatic to see it here in this kind of condition,” Clark said. “They can see it through the windows anytime and, if there’s somebody here, we’re more than welcome to have them come in and take a look and give them some information.”
Donations to the fire truck fund may be made by cash or check. Checks are payable to Osceola Firefighters Association, and donations can be dropped off at City Hall or mailed to 135 W. Washington P.O. Box 399, Osceola, IA 50213. Put 1928 on the memo line.
Credit and debit donations may be made througha GoFundMe campaign at www.gofundme.com/1928-american-lafrance.
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Fire Prevention Week tips
National Fire Prevention Association is the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week, which runs the first week of October.
This year's Fire Prevention Week campaign is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” which works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire.
NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.
The “Look. Listen. Learn.” campaign highlights three steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape a fire:
• Look for places fire could start.
• Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.
• Learn 2 ways out of every room.
Osceola Volunteer Fire Department Captain Corey Clark recommends everyone check the smoke detectors in their homes, as well as the batteries in those smoke detectors.
"That's the biggest thing. A lot of them are not working. Most people forget about them or they don't do it very often," Clark said.
Clark also suggests keeping matches and cigarettes put away.
"With the winter weather coming in, space heaters are a big issue and cleaning chimneys before you run your wood stoves," Clark said. "Those are the big ones."
For more information about Fire Prevention Week and home escape planning, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.