Since 1896, the City of Moline has had a paid fire department. For many years after, the firehouse had been a neighborhood gathering point for gossip, card playing and various forms of socializing. Such was the founding of the Second Alarmers.
Eleven local businessmen who enjoyed visiting with the firemen decided they might put their time to better use by helping at fires. Their duties would not include actually fighting fires, but would center around running for tools, assisting with traffic control, picking up and rolling hose lines, and washing and hanging hose back at the firehouse.
The Second Alarmers became registered with the State of Illinois on February 17, 1952 with a stated purpose of “assisting the Fire Chief in any manner by promoting, creating, and maintaining the best interests of the Moline Fire Department.” This included helping at any second alarm fire.
Back in the ‘50s and 60’s, scrapbooks showed there were more “bad” fires than in recent times. Members of the Second Alarmers worked many long hours, side-by-side, with paid members of the department. In the ‘70s, membership began to wane; not because of interest, but because of fewer and fewer multiple alarm fires.
Noting this, and because of changes in the call-up procedures by the department, then-Chief James Woydziak allowed the Second Alarmers to be called for all general alarm fires. He and our advisor, Captain Charles Davis, arranged for the group to obtain a retired Chevy Suburban and use it as a mobile air cascade system, to replenish firefighters’ breathing air bottles.
That vehicle evolved into a second-generation version, based on a former transit bus. A new air delivery system, spare bottle holders, cabinets, oxygen and first aid equipment were installed. Because the vehicle was heated and air conditioned, it was also operated as a rehab unit for both firemen and displaced fire victims.
Our current vehicle is a former heavy rescue truck that has been modified by members of the Second Alarmers. Added was a high pressure cascade system, more compartments, portable generators, portable lights, light tower, and rehab equipment.
The conversion from retired command car to our first Air Supply included a front bumper mounted generator for scene lighting. The rear bed was converted to a mobile fill station with a 4 bottle 4500psi cascade system used to fill the 2216psi SCBA bottles the firefighters wore into hazardous situations. Above the cascade was a 16 bottle spare SCBA storage rack. Carried along to the general alarms were water coolers, first-aid supplies, spare flash lights, halogen scene lights and power cords.
Click on the picture below to open a new window for easier reading. Some quality press.
The second generation Air Supply. Converted from a small transit bus acquired from the Quad City Metro Link. It was gutted and modified to serve our purposes. The cascade system was moved from the Chevy Suburban. A 4-bank fill station was added to make re-filling bottles more efficient. A generator compartment was cut into the right side forward of the wheel well. Double doors were added to the back for additional access to the interior. Bench seats were added along the sides to transport personel and for re-hab out of the elements at a fire scene. A window on the each side was modified to open out allowing access to the SCBA bottle storage racks from the exterior.
In about 2000, After we had to retire the Air Supply due to some severe mechanical difficulties the Moline Fire Department allowed us to make use of a spare ambulance (Generation three) to continue our volunteer service to the department. A search was started to find a permanent replacement.
The fourth generation, Our Current Air Supply. At the Moline riverfront, ready for service.
Due to mechanical problems with the air supply transit bus, the group spent nearly a year and a half soliciting foundations, corporations, and local politicians to raise money for a new vehicle. Nearly $90,000 was raised. However, when specifications were drawn up to have a vehicle built, the group found that it was still short of money. It was felt that it would be a tough job to raise the additional funds, so a used vehicle was pursued.
Happening upon an equipment builder’s website, a used rescue truck was spotted that seemed to fit our needs. Earnest money was wired and a group of Second Alarmers drove to the Sykesville, MD volunteer fire department to view the truck. With some slight modification, it would fit the bill!
This is right before our departure from the Sykesville-Freedom Fire Protection District Station.
With deal made at Sykesville, the truck committee had to make the trek back to the Quad Cities. The 870 mile trip would prove to be a great durability test for the rig. The wheels were already turning on what modifications would be first to build it into our truck. The return trip took two full days, without any major incidents. One small problem, the keys seemed to lock themselves in the truck (both sets) on the second morning while it was warming up, No finger pointing here. But, John had a gremlin in his pocket that day and left the key in the truck.
After we made land fall in Moline the wish list was presented and acted on by a bunch of volunteers that ranged from mechanics to school teachers and retired citizens. The group effort prevailed and 4 months later the truck was put in service, looking shiny and new for the dedication at the training center.