The Lone Pine Fire Department will be showing off a returning member of the team at the 21st Annual Lone Pine Film Festival parade on Sunday. The member is a 1934 Chevrolet fire truck, recently found in a private collection and in near-mint condition.
Fire Chief Le Roy Kritz said the truck is quite possibly the first engine the department and district ever owned. He said he’s seen pictures of the 1889 Lone Pine Fire Brigade with pull-along carts, but no engines before this one.
The discovery of the truck was the result of a chance encounter when retired firefighter Dwayne Warth was visiting West Yellowstone, Mont. Kritz said Warth happened to hear of the private collection of trucks and other memorabilia from Inyo County, circa 1900, belonging to an heir of the Hamilton Stores. Kritz explained the Hamilton bought the engine in 1968, the last time it was heard about until Warth’s discovery.
Hamilton Stores had major land holdings and was the lead concessionaire in Death Valley prior to 1970. Hamilton Stores was also the only concessionaire for Yellowstone National Park for nearly a century.
Kritz explained that being a concessionaire must be quite lucrative as evidenced by Hamilton’s extensive stockpile of antiquities and other paraphernalia of the Old West.
Kritz said he traveled to Montana himself to pick up the truck, noting that Hamilton’s collection included some original water wagons pulled by the Borax Company’s 40-mule team, the old bar from Furnace Creek and even a wheelchair custom-built for the child of a Russian czar.
According to Kritz, the truck was in excellent condition, and despite not being started in four years, an oil change and new gas were all that was needed for the 76-year-old truck to fire right up.
Kritz said the next job will be to see if the tank and pump will hold water.