1925 American LaFrance fire truck

In this file photo from July 2018, Morehead City Fire Chief Jamie Fulk, left, and Deputy Chief Jack Manley sit atop the 1925 American LaFrance fire truck, which the city has raised money to purchase from a private collector. A dedication ceremony for the fire truck will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fire Station No. 2 off Arendell Street. (Elise Clouser photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Residents and visitors are invited to attend a dedication ceremony Saturday to welcome a historic fire truck home to Morehead City.

The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at Fire Station No. 2 on Arendell Street, where the historic 1925 American LaFrance pumper fire truck is being housed for the time being. The city launched the “Bring Back the Real Steel” campaign last year to raise funds to purchase the truck, which was operated by the Morehead City Fire Department until the 1960s, from a private collector.

The city raised about $70,000 through the campaign to purchase the truck. Rodney Kemp, chairman of the fundraising committee, said the truck’s owner cut the city a deal and is selling it for $50,000, so the remaining money will go toward a new fire/EMS museum being planned for downtown.

The truck’s current owner, Goldsboro resident and longtime fire truck collector Jay Howell, will be presented a check during the event Saturday. He loaned the truck to Morehead City to display at the station and for events while the city gathered funds for its purchase.

There will also be a raffle drawing during the event Saturday for a custom golf cart to help support the new fire museum. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $10 at Fire Station No. 2 until Friday. Only 2,000 raffle tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The future Morehead City Fire/EMS Museum is to be in the former fire station off Evans Street, which currently houses the municipal building where some city staff work and the city council meets. Once the new consolidated municipal building off Bridges Street is built, the fire museum and its artifacts, including the historic truck, can move into the former station.  

“Firemen don’t throw anything away, so there’s a lot of boots, helmets, equipment and other items that will be displayed,” Mr. Kemp said.

Mr. Kemp sought the city council’s approval last week to use the municipal building for the future fire museum. The council will formally consider the matter, including a contract with the nonprofit organization formed to make the museum a reality, in coming months.

The nearly 100-year-old American LaFrance pumper was used by MCFD from 1926 until it was retired from the force and sold in the late 1960s. Fire Chief Jamie Fulk has said it was the second-ever fire truck purchased by the city for a cost of $12,500, a steep price back then.

After it was sold, the truck apparently changed hands between private collectors several times over the years, and the city lost track of its whereabouts. A few years ago, however, Mr. Howell realized the historic truck he’d recently purchased at an auction appeared to be a former Morehead City vehicle, and he reached out to city staff to confirm.

When staff confirmed it was, in fact, the same truck that helped fight fires big and small throughout Morehead City and surrounding towns for nearly 40 years, Mr. Howell offered to sell.

Mr. Kemp said as a lifelong resident of Morehead City, he remembers the truck being used in Christmas parades and other events, and he’s excited to bring it home for a new generation to enjoy.

“I’m amazed by how the community responded … we have a very historically-conscious community here in Morehead City,” he said.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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