Fired up for an original

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In two concrete bunkers at the Boeing Co. complex, members of the Huntington Beach Fire Department are trying to restore the city’s first motorized fire engine.

With the frame, engine and water pump in one room and the disassembled frame and a second fire engine in a separate room, the 1923 Seagrave Metropolitan Pumper engine doesn’t look like much — yet.

“Our goal is to restore it exactly like we got it in the 1920s,” said Rex Rysewyk, a Fire Department engineer.


The Huntington Beach Firefighter’s Assn. is spearheading the Seagrave Fire Engine Restoration Project to bring the city’s first motorized fire engine back to life.

The dark maroon Seagrave was used for about 30 years in Huntington Beach. After its days fighting fires waned in the 1950s, the engine was given to a local museum, said Andre Clarizio, restoration project chairman and department engineer.

The city had the chance to trade the museum for another piece of equipment and got the Seagrave back, Clarizio said. The museum had painted the engine a generic fire engine-red, but it was in good condition from being inside the museum, Clarizio said.

The project was slated for completion for the city’s centennial Fourth of July celebration, but lack of funds stalled the project. The restoration is up and running again, but money is still holding it back, Clarizio said.

“Our biggest hurdle right now it money. That’s what is holding us up,” Clarizio said.

A group of association members have taken it upon themselves to take apart and rebuild the fire engine on their own time to try and save money. With about eight volunteers working on the restoration once or twice a week, Clarizio said they would like to have it completed in time for the 2011 Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade, but whether it will done by then remains to be seen.

“That would be a long shot for us, but we have to have some sort of goal,” he said.

Clarizio, who was a mechanic before getting into the Fire Department, has taken on the engine with Rysewyk. The two fire department engineers, along with their co-workers, are spending their free time on the project to help preserve a piece of their history, he said.

“The Fire Department is all about tradition and history,” Clarizio said.

The work is fun, but every new portion they take apart, is like opening another can of worms, Clarizio said. The association bought a similar engine from Tennessee to use for parts and because they want to do a true restoration, a number of the procedures will need to be done by a specialist, Rysewyk said.

For that, the association still needs to raise about $10,000.

“When we get down to the more specialized aspects … it’s really going to costs some money,” he said.

When the engine is done, the association hopes to use it in the Huntington Beach Fourth of July parades and take it to community events. The fire engine will be a special way to remember the city’s history and be a conversation starter for the Fire Department and ultimately, fire safety, Rysewyk said.

“It’s rare that we can get back one of our first engines,” Clarizio said.

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