1920s-era Fire Engine/Pumper Returned to University Park

A chance encounter at a conference for firefighters prompted a 1925 American LaFrance fire engine/pumper’s return to the city of University Park in 2021.

After a restoration process that took more than a year, it rolled through town again for the Park Cities Fourth of July parade this year.

“I couldn’t help but wonder as we were pulling off Central Expressway onto Mockingbird Lane if the pumper was taking in the sites of the community it served nearly 100 years ago,” fire chief Randy Howell said. 

The city of University Park first bought the fire engine/pumper as a replacement for its first one, destroyed fighting a dormitory fire on SMU’s campus. The new (at the time) engine/pumper remained in use until sold at auction in the late 1930s.

The late Bobby Ramsey, a former assistant chief with Travis County Fire Control and fire equipment aficionado who owned a 1952 Seagraves pumper himself, found University Park’s 1920s-era pumper years later stored in an airplane hangar at an old military base.

After Ramsey died in the early 2000s, the Jollyville, Texas fire department bought both pumpers from his family for use in parades and other community events.

Jollyville Fire Chief Brad Landi investigated the history of the 1925 pumper, contacted LaFrance, and learned it was built for the city of University Park.

University Park spokeswoman Paige Ruedy said Robert Behrens refurbished the pumper with his money while the Jollyville Fire Department still owned it. The Jollyville Fire Department initially planned to sell it to a fire museum, but plans began for it to come back to University Park after Landi spoke with UPFD assistant chief Scott Green at a conference.

University Park bought the pumper in February of 2021. The city’s equipment services division began work, including equipping the pumper with a modern braking system and refurbished engine ahead of the parade.

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Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, former deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order.

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