Monrovia’s Vintage Fire Engine: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

By Susan Motander, Monrovia Weekly, Photos by Terry Miller


fire engine 5   Monrovia’s first Fire Engine, a 1917 Seagrave Triple, is being restored by Tired Iron Works largely with funds from an anonymous donor and additional assistance from other members of the community. The vintage engine is now in running order, its body has been restored and repainted, and even the seat has been reupholstered. But additional funds are still needed for the final restoration which includes purchasing very special solid rubber tires; not a small expense. For the rubber truly to meet the road, more assistance is needed.

The engine is now owned by the Monrovia Firefighters’ Association and no public funds have been used in its purchase and restoration. The engine was first ordered by the city after the largest hotel in town burned down in 1916. It was the top of the line engine in its day, a triple with not just pumping capability (this distinguishes it from a fire truck) but also the ability to carry ladder as well as fight fires with chemicals.

The engine served Monrovia for many years before being sold to Flintridge. Subsequently it was sold to several other firefighting agencies, each time to a smaller community. Ultimately he (this writer is of the opinion that fire engines are definitely male…explanations upon request) was acquired by the Harrah collection in Reno. Unfortunately, the collection was dissolved upon the death of its founder before this engine was restored.

fire engine 4From there, Monrovia’s old engine moved from place to place: a tourist attraction called the Ponderosa Ranch, a restaurant, and other private hands. Eventually, he was offered for sale to a Monrovia resident. The owner at that time wanted to sell it at once or was going to sell it piece by piece on line. And so a resident of Monrovia bought it and turned to the community for help. Brian Soash of Foothill Towing had it brought “home” at his own expense. For years it waited for someone to restore it.

Finally the Firefighters’ Association took over its own aging treasure and enlisted the help of Chris Kidd of Tired Iron. With the generous donation of hundreds of hours of time and with funds from the community, the restoration has been in process for over a year. The firefighters have been “passing the boot,” the firefighters’ traditional method of raising money, and have seen the total rise in the fire hose meter constructed to measure the progress of that fundraising.

A final push for funds is needed to complete the engine. Donations can be sent to “Save the Grave” c/o Tired Iron, 135 East Foothill Blvd., Monrovia. The progress being made can be seen on Facebook at Save the Grave.

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