Michigan Firehouse Museum adds 1927 LaFrance fire truck to its collection
The Michigan Firehouse Museum, located in Ypsilanti, is the new home for a 1927 LaFrance fire truck after Flint firefighter Rico Phillips donated the 22-foot-long, 13,000-pound vehicle.
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Matt Lee, executive director of the museum, said the museum came into possession of the truck after Phillips scouted all around the state to find a spot for it.
Lee said Phillips received the truck in 2005 when an individual wanted to make a donation toward the Flint Firefighters Historical Society.
After experiencing some issues due to the downward turn of the economy, the Historical Society was given a deadline by its building owner to find a new home for the truck as well as other historical items. Lee said they moved the truck to its new home May 28.
“They decided we would be the best home for it,” Lee said. “We have the space and the expertise. They signed over the paperwork to us and we brought it down here.”
Lee said this particular truck is special and rare to come by because very few Flint pieces exist still. Most cities used the LaFrance trucks to replace horses because they could travel much faster, he said.
The truck has benches in the back that allow a driver, officer and a crew of five to seven firefighters to sit comfortably.
“It’s a unique truck,” Lee said. “They didn’t have to stand on the running board. Detroit and Flint were the only ones that did this. They were 60 years ahead of the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements. They were forward thinkers and, actually, it was the first of this design. ”
Right now, the truck is in a storage facility until the museum staff can make it presentable for the public. The truck is missing a few parts, and because of the truck’s age, replacement parts can be hard to acquire. So it may be a while before the truck is on display in the museum.
“This truck is 80 years old,” Lee said. “When they gave it to us, it wasn't running. It's a multistep procedure. It might be a year or so before we can gather the parts.”
In the meantime, Lee said the 30,000-square-foot museum, which is located at 110 W. Cross St., has more than 60 fire trucks that he rotates throughout the year. The oldest piece the museum has is from 1834 and the newest is from 1982.
“We have a huge display,” he said. “There are about 400 museums in the country and ours is in the top 10. It's a hidden gem here in Ypsilanti. People are surprised there is so much stuff here locally.”
Lee said business has been fairly steady and the museum attracts just shy of 10,000 visitors a year.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
“Because of the economy, people have been going on what I call a staycation,” Lee said. “They stay near home and that's good for us.”
Throughout the year, Lee said he sees a variety of visitors, including students from area schools, families and tourists.
“There’s always people that bring young children because they love fire engines,” he said. “The entity that’s growing all of the time is retirees. It’s the biggest group. There are so many facets to the museum. It appeals to people that like local history and people that love old fire engines.”
Katrease Stafford covers the city of Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2548 or at KatreaseStafford@annarbor.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.