A century-old fire truck has finally returned to its home department thanks to a 2,000 mile cross-country lift by GearGrid owner Mike Boyer. With the experience and equipment needed to transport antique vehicles—as well as a shared appreciation for preserving fire department history—Boyer eagerly volunteered to assist with these efforts.
Sheridan Fire-Rescue in Wyoming had spent decades tracking down its 1919 American LaFrance through the effort of now-retired captain Edgar Fack. They came tantalizingly close to buying it back in 2005, but lost out to another buyer. Later the engine was sold back to American LaFrance for its historical museum, and wound up on loan to the nearby Surfside Beach Fire Department in South Carolina. When American LaFrance went bankrupt in 2014, however, Surfside had no way to return it. The stars began to align in 2018 when Surfside and Sheridan got in touch and struck a new loan agreement to document the truck’s transfer, in case of any future matters of ownership. However, they still needed a way to transport it.
That was where Boyer came in. His brother-in-law, a firefighter at Sheridan, helped make the connection, knowing Boyer’s hobby building, showing and transporting antique vehicles that range from the 1930s to 1960s.
Not only does Boyer work on his own vehicles, however, but he has spent years helping to restore an antique engine for his own local fire department where he’s a former volunteer–the department’s first brand-new truck, a 1930 Chevrolet.
So when Sheridan came calling for help saving a piece of their history, he could relate. “I was honored to be asked and to be able to assist,” he says.
And it was not a small task. Even with all his experience transporting his own vehicles long-distance, the move did bring some challenges.
“It was a fairly large vehicle for what I’m used to,” Boyer says. “It’s bigger and heavier than a standard pickup, but luckily I had a trailer large enough to handle it.”
In addition, “I had some concerns about going up the ramps into the trailer, if it would handle the weight,” he noted, so he brought extra lumber to shore things up. He winched the truck in, as it wasn’t running at the time.
Boyer and his wife, Shirley, had multiple people on hand to help load the truck and send them off in South Carolina, including Sheridan’s Chief Gary Harnish, Local 276 President Gerald “Jerry” Johnston, retired Capt. Edgar Fack and his wife Denise, and the city administrator of Surfside Beach.
In addition to managing the logistics of the move, Boyer worked during the send-off to keep the folks at Sheridan Fire-Rescue at ease, showing his expertise and care. His attention to detail included checking the truck’s anti-freeze before leaving South Carolina, which was a good thing since it turned out to be filled with water, which wouldn’t do for the colder climate it would be traveling through.
Boyer left Surfside Beach, S.C. at 9:38 a.m. EST on Monday, February 22nd and arrived in Sheridan, Wyo. at 11:46 a.m. MST on Thursday, February 25th.
A massive welcome awaited the truck, with most of the department—as well as the mayor and people of the city council—seeing it for the first time.
“It was emotional coming back there to Sheridan,” Boyer says, “and seeing all the firefighters there and their families, and retired firefighters and retired chiefs—everybody there to welcome the truck.”
The engine arrived in good shape, and with some light repair, is now up and running. Boyer has stayed in contact with the department and seen videos of it in action.
“I have every intention of staying in touch with them because there’s a little connectivity to that truck now, for me,” Boyer says.
The local firefighters are taking great pride in it, he says, and plan to show it at rodeos, car shows, parades and other community events.
Chief Harnish and retired captain Edgar Fack told GearGrid they could not find words for how incredible Mike and Shirley Boyer were through the experience, and for making the return of the fire engine actually attainable.
“It was incredibly rewarding and exciting to see Edgar’s efforts pay off,” Harnish says, “and come to fruition with the return of the fire engine coming back home.”