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The Old Engine Returns

An Emergency Story by

Steamer 10


The Old Engine Returns


It had been a year since the apartment fire that had wrecked the ’34 Dennis Ace Pump/Escape Fire Engine that Johnny and Roy had restored to factory condition. The Dennis was down but not out.

Another year of sitting in the back of Station 51 with Johnny and Roy working on it on and off between runs and on days off nearly had the old girl looking like a showpiece again. But Johnny and Roy had gone a step further in the second restoration.

“Well Roy, I really think we’ll win the Parade this year. We have to after we rebuilt the pump and put a new water tank in her! I mean that Model T Chief’s car with the chromed engine that won last year can’t pump water!” John said excitedly from under the Dennis’ Bonnet.

 “I hope you’re right after all you put me through and the money we spent to get an All-Stainless tank and a new bronze impeller machined for it.”

 “Trust me it was a good Idea! Most engines this old that have survived just drive around for show, ours actually can return to service if it had too!”

 From the other side Roy nodded in a more convinced way “Yea, I guess I never really thought about it like that. The kids could play with the booster reel as long as we don’t pump it at too high of a pressure.”

“See! Now you’re thinking!” said Johnny as he tightened the hose clamps on the radiator and lowered the bonnet on the driver’s side. With his sleeve he huffed on the radiator cap and polished it with his shirt. He stepped back and looked at their shining antique with the same cheesy smile he used on the new nurses at Rampart. “Now that’s a nice looking Fire Engine.” He stated confidently.

“Just don’t park it in front of a brick apartment building!” sneered Roy.

Johnny frowned, trying to come up with a witty remark. Just then Chet walked out. “You two still working on this old Heap?” chuckled Chet.

“This Heap as you call it Chet is going to win the LA County Fireman’s Parade this year,” replied Johnny.

Just then the alarm went off “Station 51, Engine 127 traffic accident with fire, unknown if there are any injuries at the intersection of Diablo and Rio Grande, Diablo and Rio Grande. Time out, 13:41.”

Captain Stanley wrote down the address and acknowledged LA, “Station 51, 10-4 KMG-365.”

Mike Stoker climbed into the cab of the Ward and cranked over the big 6 cylinder Cummins. Cap jogged around the front of the engine and got into position. Johnny and Roy took off in the squad and the engine followed close behind.



The Electronic Siren of the squad and the Electro-Mechanical Federal Q of the engine screamed through the streets as they roared towards Diablo and Rio Grande. On arrival there was acrid black smoke billowing from a station wagon that had T-Boned a Cadillac Fleetwood.


Captain Stanley radioed dispatch. “LA, Engine 51 we’ve got a two car collision with smoke and fire showing on arrival. Tell Engine 127 to Roll on in.”


The Squad pulled around the corner and parked, the Engine parked about 20 feet back from the rear passenger side corner of the Caddy.

“Chet, Marco! Get an inch and a half on that!” barked Cap.

Vince was standing on the corner next to his squad car keeping spectators back. The Driver and passenger of the station wagon had tumbled out before the collision. The Caddy was parked at the curb at the time and was unoccupied.  Chet grabbed the nozzle and a set of loops from the rear officer’s side pre-connect, Marco followed shortly after with the rest of the loops and flaked out the line.

Mike put the pump into gear and charged the line. Johnny and Roy grabbed a Haligan and an Axe, and with their SCBA’s on popped windows and the hood so Chet could get at the fire.

Meanwhile Mike grabbed the short 25 foot section of deuce and a half from the driver’s compartment and hooked up the engine to the hydrant.

Just then Engine 127 roared in, its crew jumped off with their booster line and joined the fight. The fire was out shortly thereafter.

Johnny and Roy checked out the driver and passenger of the Station Wagon. The Driver had a laceration on his forehead and a scraped knee, other than that just a little shaken.

The passenger escaped unscathed. “Rampart this is Squad 51” Johnny announced into the Biophone.

“Go Ahead 51” Replied Doctor Early.

“Rampart, we have a Male approximately 35 years old who was involved in a motor vehicle accident. He has a laceration on his forehead and bruised/skinned knee. Vitals are BP 120/80, Respirations 20, Pulse is 100.”

“Pupils are Equal and Reactive Johnny” added Roy.

 “Rampart Pupils are Equal and Reactive.”

“Any other injuries 51?”

“That’s a negative Rampart.”

 “Ok 51, start an I.V. with Ringer’s Lactate and transport.”

“10-4 Rampart, Lactated Ringers and Transport.”

 “Ugghhhh My Head…” said the driver as Roy dressed it.

 “Man you took quite a spill there!” Said Johnny.

“Yea, I was coming down Diablo and the Stoplight changed. I tried braking but the pedal went straight to the floor. I swerved to avoid a car that was passing through the intersection then bailed out when I saw the Caddy parked at the curb. Luckily my girlfriend followed suit.”

The driver groaned, looking at the smoldering hunk of iron that used to be his car.

“Well at least it wasn’t you’re fault” Johnny said optimistically. The driver smiled as he leaned back on the gurney and the orderlies loaded him into the ambulance and his girlfriend climbed in.

“You gonna ride with him?” asked Johnny.

“Yea, I’ll take him in” replied Roy as they shut the rear doors of the ambulance and sped off to Rampart.

The Ambulance was leading and the Squad following close behind. At the hospital Roy held up the IV bag as they walked through the entrance.

“Let’s take him in one” Said Dr. Early as they swiveled the stretcher into treatment room one. “I think we’ve got it from here guys,” said the Doc as Johnny and Roy waved and walk to the nurse’s station to get some supplies.

“Hey Dix, how’s it going?” said Johnny as he leant on the desk and Roy walked behind and got some Ringer’s.

“Just living the life of a nurse Johnny” replied Dixie. “Hey I heard you guys fixed up your old engine again. Gonna try the parade this year?”

“You bet Dix! And this year she’s going to win! Model T be damned!”

“You sound awfully confident Johnny, you got a trick up your sleeve?”

 “Well it just so happens I do Dix! Roy and I had the pump rebuilt and a new water tank put in so now she can put out fires if she had too!”

“What, that Apartment fire last year wasn’t enough?” Dixie chortled. Johnny got an embarrassed sort of frown on his face. Just then Doctor Brackett passed by for some coffee.

“Kell did you hear Johnny and Roy are entering the old engine in the parade again?” mused Dix.

“I did not.” Dr. Brackett replied interested.

“You guys gonna stop by to cheer us on?” Asked Johnny.

“Sure, we’ll be there” replied Dix and the Doc. 

“Just don’t park it next to any burning buildings.” teased Doctor Brackett as he grabbed his coffee and walked to his office. Johnny held up his finger with his mouth slightly open to try and retaliate, but Doctor Brackett had shut the door before he could utter a word.  Dix held her hand to her mouth and snorted with her mouth shut, giggling.

Later the squad backed into the station, and Johnny and Roy got back to working on the Dennis.

“Ok, the moment of Truth!” said Johnny excitedly. “Flip you for it” replied Roy.

 “Heads” blurted John. Roy flipped the quarter and it landed on tails. Johnny frowned.

Roy wiped his feet and climbed into the driver seat. Turned on the ignition, retarded the spark, opened the throttle slightly, and pulled the choke. “Ok Crank it Johnny” Called Roy from the cab.

CHUFF-CHUFF CLANK, CHUFF-CHUFF CLANK, CHUFF-CHUFF CLANK PUH PUFF, ROAR!!! The Dennis was alive again. Johnny dropped the crank handle exhausted from cranking the large 4 cylinder Flat-Head engine.

“Whoo Hooo!” Cheered Roy from the cab.

“It’s alive!!!” said Johnny like Dr. Frankenstein. The rest of the guys came out to see, they all recognized the sound of the chugging engine from the previous year. Johnny climbed on the other side, rang the bell and honked the classic Klaxon Ahooga horn.

Captain Stanley and the rest of the guys hooted and cheered. They puttered around the back parking lot blissfully for a few laps and parked the Dennis back in her space. Roy shut off the ignition and hopped down.


 “Well what do you think boys?”

“It went better than last year” replied Marco.

“Yea, I don’t think you’ll need a horse like you almost did last year” teased Chet, “But I’ve got one on stand-by just in case”.

“Oh will you Shut Up.” replied Johnny. They polished up the Dennis and got her looking her finest for the big day. The next day Johnny and Roy got dressed in their Victorian Fireman Uniforms and Fired up the Dennis.

They pulled out onto the main drag and the guys cheered behind them. They chugged down the road, their new water tank filled with water, If only 100 gallons worth. They made it to the parade without a problem and got into the line-up.

They parked the Dennis next to last year’s winner the dreaded Model T. They looked it over and said to themselves. “That was our competition last year?”

Johnny and Roy looked at each other. “We could have walked away with it last year! And the Dennis wasn’t even in as good of shape as she is now!” said John. “She would have won fresh from the scrap yard!” replied Roy.


 Meanwhile at the end of the Parade’s route, 2 miles down the road, in the park by the Grandstand and Bleachers, a group of kids were playing with firecrackers and bottle rockets to celebrate the parade.

The Grandstand was adorned with lots of colorful paper banners and patriotic arrangements for the Judges of the Parade. Which unfortunately, the box of fireworks was just a tad too close to. The Parade began. Johnny and Roy fired up their pride and Joy and joined the precession. Waving to the crowd as the Dennis popped along at a leisurely 3 miles per hour.

 Back at the grandstand, the kids were getting more and more mischievous, setting off bottle rockets in flower pots, and 4 or 5 at once. One of the stray bottle rockets landed on the roof of the grandstand, still alight, rolled down the roof and nose dived into the box full of firecrackers.

A moment later a barrage of what sounded like gunshots ensued, the violently exploding firecrackers spewing hot flaming sulfur everywhere.

People screamed and panicked, the kids mounted their bikes and fled. In a matter of seconds the colorful banners that lined the grandstand were alight, the growing blaze making a feast of the old dried wood that the old Grandstand was built with.

From the cab of the Dennis Johnny and Roy saw the smoke billowing from the park. Roy groaned “Oh no, not again…” as he brought Johnny’s attention to the header from the driver’s seat. Johnny got a stupid grin on his face and looked at Roy. “Johnny, Don’t Say it!!!!” Roy snarled at his companion “After what happened last year?”

“Roy, come on, it’s not a brick apartment building, and we’ve come prepared!” enthused Johnny as he patted the new water tank behind him.  Johnny saw the rest of the off-duty A-Shift crew from Station 51 lining the curb “You guys coming?” he shouted from the cab pointing to the smoke. Johnny pulled the Dennis over to the curb. “Hop on guys!”

 Chet, Marco, Mike and Cap all looked at each other and clambered aboard. The Dennis roared away from the curb, Roy ringing the bell and Johnny with his foot on the Klaxon. The headlights gleamed and the Amber warning lamps flashed as the Dennis chugged merrily down the street towards the raging inferno at 40mph, pushing the rest of the precession out of the way.

 A light haze of blue smoke and the occasional lick of flame from her exhaust and a wisp of steam at the radiator cap said the Dennis was ready to fight as she roared and blasted her way into the park.

Her headlights fearlessly stared down the blaze as her impromptu crew jumped off and pulled the Booster line. Johnny engaged the transfer case to the pump, put the transmission into gear and revved her up to 150psi.

Chet and Marco on the booster line trying to knock down the blaze. On a conflagration that big 100 gallons does not go very far.

From the rear of the Dennis, where the pump is mounted, Johnny called to the guys “Take it Easy guys we’re almost dry!” as he looked fearfully at the low reading sight glass on the side of the water tank. 

“Oh no you’re not!” Called Roy as he raced down the dirt path with a section of deuce and a half connected to the hydrant back on the street. Roy connected it to the main intake on the rear and ran back up to the hydrant.

He opened it just in the nick of time just as the water tank was almost dry. The hose wiggled like a snake going from flat to fully charged in an instant as the water rushed through it to the pump of the Dennis



 With the established water supply Cap and Mike grabbed a deuce and a half from the under running board storage box of the Dennis and hooked it up. With that line charged they went to work knocking down the growing fire that had spread to the bleachers.

The polished antique brass smooth bore nozzles blew off sections of wood and shingles from the grandstand and bleachers as the fire slowly surrendered to the torrent of water being dumped onto it.

By the time the first officially in-service LA County apparatus arrived on scene, the fire was out. It was Engine 51 with B-Shift. They rolled up and the crew just laughed.

“I told you it would work!!” said Johnny as Roy walked back from the hydrant.

“For once Johnny, You were right.” Roy replied with a grin from ear to ear.

Chief Engineer Houghts from headquarters was among the judges for the parade. He walked up to Johnny and Roy with a serious look on his face.

“Gage, Desoto, is this your rig?” He asked pointing to lightly soot spotted Dennis.

“Uh, Er, Ummm Yes?” replied John nervously.

Chief Houghts turned that serious face into a warm smile and said. “Son, the last time I saw that engine in action was when she was still in service at 9’s and I was just a boy. I have to say, when that engine roared up to the fire and started pumping, boy that brought back memories.” He genuinely shook Johnny and Roy by the hand with a firm grip. “And for you efforts, and for having such a gorgeous piece of fire apparatus, I hereby bestow upon you, and Station 51 the award for best appearing, AND performing Antique Apparatus in the Parade, Congratulations Men! You Deserve it!”

The crowd Cheered and Roared as Chief Houghts Presented Johnny and Roy with the trophy, and placed a medal around the Radiator Cap of the Dennis. Later, the just-washed Dennis sat parked in the back of Station 51, the sunset reflecting off of her red and blue paint.

Johnny and Roy proudly gaze at their award winning engine as they sipped their late night coffee by the back garage door.

“She finally did it Roy, she finally won.” sighed Johnny “Yep, and she fought a fire again. I’m sure she’s just as happy as we are.” replied Roy.

“Oh I know she is.” Chuckled Johnny as the Dennis just stood there proudly sporting the medal on her radiator cap.










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