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Many surprised, disappointed when fire pumper tested

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Sheridan Media reporter Pat Blair has done some research on the historic fire truck recently re-acquired by the city of Sheridan. Here’s her story.

Many Sheridan residents were reported surprised and disappointed back in December 1919 when the city’s new pumper was tested.

That’s because, according to the Sheridan Post account of the occasion, people were expecting to see the engine “dashing up” to the test site on Main Street at Mandell. Instead, because the occasion was a test of the new vehicle’s abilities for insurance purposes, the testing was done slowly and carefully according to standards.

The 1919 LaFrance engine was purchased by the city in August of that year, according to Fire Chief Gary Harnish, at a cost of $11,000. It was, he said, a first for the city.

Harnish said the city had other motorized vehicles at that time, but the 1919 LaFrance was the first city pumper that wasn’t drawn by horses.

The vehicle, which was sold by the city probably at sometime in the early 1940s, according to Harnish, has been re-acquired and is currently in the Sheridan Fire & Rescue Station on Works Street.

According to the 1919 Sheridan Post account, the results of the test were “gratifying in the extreme.” In addition to a large crowd of Sheridan residents, those attending the event included the mayor-elect and a city commissioner from Cheyenne and the fire chiefs of Cheyenne, Casper and Billings as well as engineers from American LaFrance.

The test started with the pump producing a weak little stream of water that only reached 40 or 50 feet, but that was gradually lengthened until it was shooting 90 feet into the air. The Post reported that a horizontal distance of 85 feet was obtained.

Harnish said the goal of the fire department is to clean up and polish the pumper and put it on exhibit for the public. He anticipates an open house, though no exact date has yet been determined, and firefighters hope to put the vehicle in this year’s Sheridan-WYO Rodeo Parade.

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