East Williston's original fire pumper has finally found a permanent home, capping a more than half-century second act as a nomadic truck.
Retired in 1955, the 1929 Maxim pumper left the village, and was sold upstate to irrigate farmland. In 1981, according to the recollection of firefighters, a Huntington Manor firefighter spotted it upstate, 45 miles south of Montreal. The village, eager to reclaim its history, bought it back, and for a while, it was the village's go-to truck for parades and civic functions, stored conveniently in the firehouse.
But in the years that followed, it has bounced around various facilities, been jettisoned to body shops and used rarely. Storage costs and space limits loomed large as village officials sought permanent solutions.
Inactivity nearly doomed it. "It almost got lost again," said Thomas Devaney, a former captain of the East Williston Fire Department.
The fix is a new, one-bay garage, opened this month on the Village Green, after the village availed the property to The Volunteer and Exempt Firemens Benevolent Association of East Williston. The fire department's nonprofit arm paid and built the roughly $30,000 garage entirely through donations.
"We were always trying to find our old equipment," said Christopher Siciliano, a trustee with the village and the benevolent association. "But it was all over the place. We wanted to keep it in the village."
David Tanner, East Williston's mayor, said he saw value in retaining the vehicle by approving the garage. "It's symbolic of 'civitas,' for community," he said. "It's an historical vehicle; it really underscores what it means to be a community, people gathering for events, celebrating."
The garage marks the end of a long quest to embrace the pumper. As it sat in body shops, "There was discussion of selling it: Do we cut our losses?" Devaney said.
Despite its new digs, repairs to the truck will never cease, Devaney said, given its age. "We hope that we have this thing for 100 years," he said, adding there are even plans for local students to restore wood in shop classes.
Plans for the new garage, for now, only include the pumper. But Devaney said the space could grow to include a collection of firefighter memorabilia.
Over the years, the pumper has added new seats, a new toolbox, a hose and polished brass. The hope, Devaney said, is to train a generation of new drivers.
"We've assured it will never be lost again," Devaney said.