According to an article in Firehouse magazine by Mike Heller, "There has always been a fire service at Disneyland. When the park officially opened on July 17th, 1955, Disney acquired a 1954 Willys Jeep with a front-mounted pump for fire protection and staffed it with ex-military personnel."
That Jeep was a Commando fire truck built by General Fire Truck Co. of Detroit, and probably delivered to Disneyland through a Willys dealer. Much of the optional equipment usually ordered with a Commando, including ladder, suction hose, and nozzles, is no longer on the truck in this photo, which was likely taken after the truck was replaced in service by a 1981 Chevrolet mini-pumper.
For any very rare major incident at Disneyland, there is a mutual-aid arrangement with the Anaheim Fire Department (which is also of benefit to the city since the park has some 18 million gallons of water on site.)
In the early 1950s Grandville, Michigan was undergoing quite a bit of expansion and was faced with the need for another piece of fire apparatus. The equipment needed had to meet a "Class A" rating yet a full sized pumper would not fit in the department's station. A Commando, built on a Willys 6-226 special fire truck chassis by the General Fire Truck Co. in 1954, was purchased through Home Acres Willys in Grand Rapids, as Engine 153. This photo shows the Grandville Fire Department in 1960, including Engine 153.
The Commando had a 500 gallon-per-minute pump which met the "Class A" rating. The unit also had ample hose storage, compartmentation and a small water tank. This engine, although small, packed a pretty good punch and was first out on most alarms due to its size, speed and maneuverability. The unit served the city from 1955 until 1976 when the city disposed of it at auction.
Equipment on the truck includes:
See more photos of this display at the SPAAMFAA 2004 national muster.
Engine 153 now belongs to Gary Dreyer, who had tried to buy it from the previous owner for 17 years. He says, "This unit held special significance to me because when I was just a small child my grandfather took me for a ride in the truck -- it was the first fire truck I ever rode in."
"Although the 17 years of perseverance paid off for me, it didn't do the engine in the truck any good as it needed a complete rebuild with only 5800 miles on the odometer."
See also the engine from the right side (100K JPEG).
The front mount pump is a Waterous 500 GPM single stage pump. See also a right front view photo (90K JPEG).
Gary says, "As I understand it, General, Howe and a few other apparatus manufacturers produced the Commandos and possibly also the smaller engines for Willys to market through their dealerships. My Commando is identical to the ones in the literature and others which I have located, in the layout, cabinetry, and equipment which was originally mounted on it."
This advertising postcard for the General Commando shows the open-cab version. The text on the back of the card (60K JPEG) indicates "Semi-Cab or Full Cab - Optional" and carries other basic specs such as 500 GPM 150 PSI pump, 150-gallon tank and 150' of booster hose. The company address is listed as St. Clair Shores, Michigan.
Thanks to Gary Dreyer, Mike Heller of Heller Creative, and Andy Doyle's Online Patch Collection for the Disneyland patch. -- Derek Redmond
See other manufacturers of Willys Fire Trucks.
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