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American LaFrance


ALF ad American LaFrance in Elmira NY was one of the foremost and oldest names in the fire apparatus industry, and known primarily for building full-size pumpers and ladder trucks. But they also built rescue and airport apparatus and some smaller units, notably the Little Mo foam trucks built under license from Blitz Buggy during 1958-60, on a Dodge or Chevrolet chassis.

They also equipped at least one Jeep CJ-3B as a dry chemical airport crash truck, for San Francisco International (see CJ-3B Fire Jeep in the Movies.)

American LaFrance I'm slowly discovering that American LaFrance (ALF) also occasionally used the Forward Control Jeep platform. The FC would have been a natural mini-pumper for ALF, since the company had a lot to do with popularizing cab-forward fire engines. But this 1962 FC-170 built for Hillandale VFD in Silver Spring MD appears to have been one of only a few they produced.

American LaFrance Hillandale VFD purchased the unit through Fenner Motors in Washington DC. It's not clear whether ALF was contracted by the fire company or the dealer to build the fairly unusual low-profile brush truck. It had a 100-gallon tank, 250 GPM pump, twin booster reels with fog nozzles, and a front-mounted winch.

Thanks to Jim Fairweather for the photos.

Colombia If an ALF Jeep brush truck was unusual, this little 1960 FC-170 crash rescue truck built for Eldorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia really demonstrates how the company was willing to build units beyond the big apparatus they're so well known for.

Middletown, Pennsylvania

Middletown Another ALF surprise is this FC with an overhead ladder rack and front pump platform that scream Howe (see a 1960 Howe Jeep FC, 200K JPEG.) Perhaps because ALF did not have Howe's extensive experience with crankshaft-driven front pumps, they instead used a gas-powered portable.

The truck belonged to Rescue Hose Co. No. 3 in Middletown PA, which later became part of the Middletown VFD.

Middletown Rescue Hose 3 may have ordered the Jeep from ALF rather than Howe because of their long familiarity with apparatus built in Elmira. Cary Murray of Middletown comments, "They had five ALF engines in their station, from the 1930s to the 60s. We call it the River House. It sat at the Susquehanna River -- you could see Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant from their station. It was closed in the early 2000s."

Thanks to Leonard Sasher and Frank Boyd for this photo.

Press and Journal Cary dug up a clipping from the weekly Press and Journal, showing that the gas-powered pump on the front was original. Rescue Hose 3 was County Station 58, and this truck was designated Squad 58. The company's slogan was "Prompt to the Rescue."

Willys MB A surplus Willys MB was the "old Jeep" referred to in the newspaper caption. The Company's affection for this workhorse with its front-mount pump could have been the reason they asked ALF to build them a Jeep, and one that carried a portable pump.

Middletown Later in its life, the pump was enclosed with a pipe frame, possibly for safety or to make it easier to lift for portable use. This photo also gives a good look at the four sets of turnout gear carried on the back for the volunteers.

Cary Murray says the truck later went to the electric department who painted it yellow and eventually sold it off.

Thanks to Cary Murray for providing the archival material from Middletown. I wouuld be interested in hearing about any other American LaFrance Jeeps. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 24 March 2023 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond