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Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

Risen from ashes: WWII-era fire truck to return to former glory

By Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns | Marine Corps Air Station Miramar | February 14, 2014

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A 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine waits for restoration at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. This particular fire engine was first used to fight fire aboard Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., in 1944, making it a piece of MCAS Miramar’s illustrious history.

A 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine waits for restoration at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. This particular fire engine was first used to fight fire aboard Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., in 1944, making it a piece of MCAS Miramar’s illustrious history. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns)


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A sand blaster sits after use on a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The museum is looking for volunteers with experience in body work, brake-system repair or any other kind of vehicle maintenance or restoration to see to the timely conclusion of this project – the end time frame is slated for June for the San Diego County Fair.

A sand blaster sits after use on a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The museum is looking for volunteers with experience in body work, brake-system repair or any other kind of vehicle maintenance or restoration to see to the timely conclusion of this project – the end time frame is slated for June for the San Diego County Fair. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns)


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Faded symbols decorate the door of a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The World War II-era fire engine is slated to be refurbished by June for the San Diego County Fair.

Faded symbols decorate the door of a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The World War II-era fire engine is slated to be refurbished by June for the San Diego County Fair. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns)


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Dan Regis, left, an engineer with Engine 60 at the Miramar Fire Department, and Steve Smith, right, curator with the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, talk while looking over a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The two men discussed the engine’s history and the restorative processes that are slated to take place.

Dan Regis, left, an engineer with Engine 60 at the Miramar Fire Department, and Steve Smith, right, curator with the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, talk while looking over a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The two men discussed the engine’s history and the restorative processes that are slated to take place. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns)


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Firefighters with the Miramar Fire Department look over a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The firemen came to view the rusty, red engine as part of their history before the restorative processes begin in earnest.

Firefighters with the Miramar Fire Department look over a 1944 International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum warehouse aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 12. The firemen came to view the rusty, red engine as part of their history before the restorative processes begin in earnest. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns)


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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum acquired an International Harvester FFN-3 fire and crash crew engine in running condition, Nov. 13.
 
The museum’s staff began researching the seven decades-old fire engine immediately and is beginning the restoration process in earnest at last.
 
This particular World War II-era engine was first used to fight fire aboard Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., in 1944, making it a piece of MCAS Miramar, Calif. and the community’s history.
 
“This is part of [the air station’s] heritage,” said Steve “Smitty” Smith, curator with the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. “There aren’t a lot of these engines around anymore and for us to find one that used to serve aboard El Toro is just amazing; and how often does anyone get to see a vintage World War II fire engine?”
 
Firefighters with the Miramar Fire Department paid a visit to the museum to see a bit of that history firsthand and one firefighter couldn’t contain his interest in the rusty, red engine.
 
“It’s great that this truck could even be found, let alone in working condition,” said Dan Regis, an engineer with Engine 60 at the Miramar Fire Department. “I like that you can find something that still has its originality; it hasn’t been hacked to pieces or modified and this is just about as original as it gets. This will allow people to really see what state-of-the-art was back in this truck’s day and what we have come to today.”
 
The Marine Corps Mechanized Museum aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. undertook this project to aid the aviation museum by providing parts and leads to where more needed parts for the fire engine can be found.
 
All that remains now is to find able-bodied volunteers to help in its restoration and more researchers to help dig up the markings and history of this vehicle.
 
“[We] aren’t fire engine and crash crew specialists by any means,” said Smith. “We aren’t sure whether this truck was an [installation] asset or if they deployed with squadrons during WWII and Korea. We do know this truck is in rough shape, but is a part of our history, and we would love some help restoring it.”
 
This project requires volunteers with experience in body work, brake-system repair or any other kind of vehicle maintenance or restoration to see to a timely conclusion for display in the San Diego County Fair in June.

“In the past two years at the fair, we’ve noticed the first weekend is about the fire departments,” said Smith. “We really want to get this truck out there to share its history with the community and firefighters to pay homage not just to them, but to their past as firemen.”
 
Volunteers who want to be a part of restoring history are encouraged to contact the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum for opportunities in not only this project, but many others.
 
For more information, contact the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at 1-877-FLY-USMC (359-8762), or Steve Smith at 858-577-6125.
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