Austintown fire department restores 1917 fire truck

By kalea hall


Lisa Callahan, of Austintown and her sister, Linda Toth of North Carolina, wanted to continue appreciating the 1917 Model T firetruck their father left them, but they didn’t know what to do with it.

Then, they figured the place the historic firetruck would fit most would be with a fire department.

Now, Callahan said, they are proud to see the truck fully restored.

On July 3, the truck made its debut after its full restoration at the Austintown Fireworks at Austintown Township Park.

“This was the best decision my sister and I could have made for the truck,” Callahan said.

Last September, the Austintown Fire Department received the truck and immediately, the teamwork needed to restore it began. The firefighters at the station and even community members joined in on the project.

“[The sisters] knew we would use it for good and put it back to the way their dad had it,” said Andy Frost, chief of the Austintown Fire Department.

The truck previously was restored by Callahan and Toth’s father, Michael Lehman, in the 1950s and 1960s, Frost said. The truck that once served the Bessemer, Pa., and Neshannock, Pa., fire departments was in decent shape, Frost said but it did need some work. Kevin Pruis of Canfield and Rob Havanec of Austintown both helped in the restoration process and donated their time and several parts for the truck.

“They took us under their wing,” Frost said. “They rebuilt the motor and the transmission.”

In addition to the mechanical side of the job, the firefighters at the station all helped to restore the truck’s body, by taking it all the way down to its frame and giving it a shiny red paint job.

“All of the guys chipped in and did their part,” Frost said. “They buffed out the paint, and every piece of brass was polished.”

Shawn Conroy, a fire-fighter for 13 years in Austintown, helped with the sanding and staining of the wood on the truck. Conroy said it took him seven hours to finish working on the 12-foot wooden ladder on the truck.

“I thought it was a good thing for the fire department,” Conroy said. “Not many fire departments can say they have something that old that they can take to events and show people.”

In addition to taking the firetruck to the fireworks celebration, the truck was also in the Austintown Fourth of July Parade. Callahan rode in the back of the truck, which she said brought back memories of when her father had the truck in parades.

“I got choked up,” Callahan said.

The truck that once carried as many people as possible on it can really only seat two, and it still just goes 17 miles per hour, but that will not stop the fire department from showing it off. The next event at which the fire truck will make an appearance is the Awesome-town event Oct. 6.

“For the guys who helped, I just cannot thank them enough,” Frost said.

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