Laguna Beach looking to rehabilitate its first fire engine, a 1931 Seagrave

The Laguna Beach fire department's 1931 Seagrave fire engine participates in the 2017 Patriots Day Parade.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Laguna Beach has a host of traditions it celebrates, including an annual visit by jolly old St. Nicholas, who used to ride into downtown each December on a vehicle nearly as old-fashioned as his fabled sleigh.

A 1931 Seagrave fire engine, the original apparatus purchased by Laguna Beach, is being kept at Fire Station No. 2 on Agate Street. When it was new the fire engine cost $7,500, which would equate to nearly $150,000 today.

“The city incorporated in 1927,” Laguna Beach fire battalion chief Andrew Hill said. “A couple years later, they built Fire Station No. 1 in downtown, and they bought this engine, which was the very first engine the city ever owned that was a commercially built fire engine.


“Prior to that, the firefighters used kind of a mixed bag of vehicles that were converted to serve as firefighting units. This engine was the city’s first purpose-built engine, and it was in service from March of 1931 to June of 1962.”

The 1931 Seagrave fire engine at Fire Station No. 2 was the first fire apparatus purchased by  Laguna Beach.
The 1931 Seagrave fire engine at Fire Station No. 2 was the first fire apparatus purchased by the city of Laguna Beach.
(Courtesy of Laguna Beach Fire Department)

Hill said he spoke with an out-of-state fire engine expert about the Seagrave, and when the latter took note of there being two wheels on both sides in the back, he said the vehicle would have been built for an area with a lot of hills.

That drew a laugh from Hill, who knew the expert had identified a main feature of Laguna Beach without having been there.

The Seagrave would convince few that it belongs on the road, although it could pass for a vehicle found on Main Street inside Disneyland.

It functioned similarly, its regular uses coming during the Patriots Day Parade, Hospitality Night, pancake breakfasts, and other community gatherings over the years.

“We kept this,” Hill said proudly. “This was a Laguna Beach engine, and it never left here. It always stayed here. The city’s always kept it, and I think that’s pretty unique. Our goal is to restore it, restore it very well, … but allow people to still climb on it, allow the kids to get on it, allow the community to enjoy it up close and personal and not behind a velvet rope.”

Hill envisions the engine, transmission and brakes being modernized, making it functional for decades to come.

City Councilman George Weiss said the restoration effort could be funded through a combination of city funds and community contributions. He said an agenda item could come to the City Council in the near future to help with the repairs for the fire engine, which he called “a nostalgia piece.”

“It’s going to be a fun project to get off the ground,” Weiss said. “I think only part of the work is over. The big work is getting the public awareness of it and then to raise the money for it on a collaborative basis.”

An online form has been created for those interested in following and supporting the restoration: