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Fire Chief Mick Beauchamp stands beside Yellowknife's newly-restored Engine Number One - the city's first fire truck.

Fire truck reborn

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 13/05) - Nearly 30 years ago, Mick Beauchamp hopped into Fire Engine Number One and raced towards a house fire in downtown Yellowknife.

Four firefighters balanced themselves on running boards that skirted the 1943 Chevrolet as Beauchamp drove towards the blaze, which was consuming a three-storey building near the present-day courthouse.

"Things were a lot different back then," Beauchamp said, standing beside the newly-refurbished fire engine.

"Today everyone would be inside!"

Beauchamp, chief of the Yellowknife Fire Department, served on the truck for five years until it was decommissioned in the early 1980s - nearly 40 years after being introduced as the capital's first fire engine.

The truck, which was bought from the United States military after the Second World War, spent most of the last two decades behind the fire department where it was battered by the elements.

Late in 2003, the Yellowknife Heritage Committee began to repair the engine, replacing its rotted floorboards and cracked wind shield. Workers also restored its bright-red finish and made sure the mechanics were sound.

Runs well

"It still runs pretty well," said Beauchamp as he pumped the choke and pressed down on the starter pedal - a process ages removed from today's auto-start.

"We took it for a spin around town and it worked well."

The department plans to use Engine Number One during celebrations - it was front and centre during the Canada Day Parade along Franklin Avenue - but has no immediate plans to replace its missing water pump, which was removed years earlier.

"There are some things that could be done, but they would take some money," he said.

Beauchamp is looking for a place to store the truck during the winter. The fire department garage only has room for one vintage vehicle: a mid-1950s Mack that was the city's second engine.

"Hey, if they wanted, they could sell it to me. I would find a place for it," he said, laughing.