Empire Editorial: Antique engine more than just a fire truck

The Juneau Volunteer Firefighters Association recently purchased an 86-year-old fire engine for $38,000. Even though residents aren’t likely to see the 1927 American LaFrance speeding down Egan Drive with lights and siren blaring, in our opinion it was still money well spent.

More than a dozen current and former Juneau firefighters, two of which drove the fire truck long before it was designated an antique, gathered this week to view the refurbished engine, share stories and experiences of years past and, more importantly, to celebrate the bond each shared as firefighters in Alaska’s capital city.

Some might view the engine as a prehistoric dinosaur with little to no practical use in the modern world. For Juneau’s firefighters, both past and present, however, the LaFrance fire truck is the embodiment of something bigger.

The truck is a piece of their history, and of Juneau’s. It symbolizes the bond shared by volunteer firefighters throughout the decades who undertook the duty of protecting people and property in their home community.

Being a volunteer firefighter was no doubt a calling that each of the volunteers heard clearly, and they responded by putting the welfare of their community above their own. In doing so, these brave individuals formed a powerful bond that, like the LeFrance fire truck, has survived decades. That is what the fire truck truly represents.

Equally impressive was how the association donated the truck to Capital City Fire and Rescue after its return to Juneau. Not only did the Juneau Volunteer Firefighters Association make its biggest purchase ever to secure the engine, but they also handed it over to today’s firefighters, further demonstrating the selflessness that led these citizens to become volunteer firefighters in the first place.

In the future, whether it be during Juneau’s Fourth of July parade or some other community event in town, when the blazing red LaFrance comes sputtering past, try to remember that sometimes a truck isn’t just a truck, it’s a piece of Juneau’s rich history and represents the hundreds of men and women who gave a part of themselves to ensure our community and, by extension, all of us remain safe.

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