Willys-Overland had a CJ-2 Agrijeep outfitted as a fire engine by American Marsh Pumps in 1945, and I have referred to that as The First Civilian Fire Jeep, although the Willys factory already had a pump-equipped MB fire engine protecting the plant as early as 1943 (see WWII Jeeps as Fire Engines.)
Now it turns out that the American Bantam Car Co. factory in Butler, Pennsylvania, where the very first jeep was built (see On the Trail of Jeep History, Part 2 on CJ3B.info) had three of its own 1941 jeeps modified as fire apparatus. Some of the photos seen here were discovered in the archives of the Butler County Historical Society in early 2020, by Butlers Standard Eight, a Facebook page covering the automotive history of Butler County PA. They may show the first jeep modified specifically for fire fighting.
The 1941 Bantam BRC-40 seen here has an extended wheelbase, with its custom body riveted rather than welded together, and the rear body dropping down to the sides of a rear step. The paint color is unknown, but judging from the way "Bantam" is lettered on the side in fire department style, it was probably painted red.
A handwritten note found with the photos indicates that three were built, with one on duty at the factory's loading dock, one in the office area, and one to be assigned where any flammable materials might be in use. There may also have been thought given to the possibility of enemy sabotage, as Bantam built trailers, torpedo motors and landing gear for the rest of the war.
Even in a noisy factory environment, people would have heard this BRC-40 coming, with its massive Sterling siren.
The jeep is equipped with two large carbon dioxide cylinders, each with a coil of hose and a CO2 horn attached, plus a number of water and soda acid extinguishers loaded into the passenger area, and a couple of carbon tetrachloride extinguishers behind each front fender.
The passenger side also has a pike pole mounted, a pocket for carrying an axe, and a large floodlight on the front fender.
Another photo has turned up with a good look at the floodlight. This may be a different BRC-40, or perhaps the picture was taken before the pike pole, axe holder and carbon tet extinguishers were installed.
The gentleman posing here appears to be the same individual driving the vehicle in the Butler Historical Society photos above.
This picture looks like it's probably a photocopy, and it seems to show another different jeep, lacking the floodlights on front and back.
None of the photos clearly show what's carried in the rear, but this angle does show a hose nozzle on the back step.
It's unknown how long after 1941 the jeeps remained in service, or what may have happened to them after the Bantam American plant stopped producing jeep trailers and was sold in 1956. There are rumors that at least a couple of them have survived. If you run across a long-wheelbase BRC-40, I bet everybody at the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival would love to see it!
Thanks to the Butler County Historical Society and Butlers Standard Eight. -- Derek Redmond
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