Firetruck History
1947 American LaFrance
700 Series - 1,000gpm Pumper
Served Roseville, Michigan

Roseville, Michigan Fire Department (RFD) on October 21,1947, the 3 horizontal bars above the front bumper indicate that this was among the first of a cutting edge new "700 Series" design offered by American LaFrance. It is powered by the once-popular 215-horsepower "J" series V-12 (Rolls Royce variant) with dual ignition and 24 spark plugs (Engine # BJ-793). A Tripleflow two-stage parallel series centrifugal pump powered the water supply at up to 1,000gpm.

After taking an comprehensive survey from America's fire chiefs to identify the "perfect fire platform", the American LaFrance Company applied their forward thinking approach and introduced the first cabforward design for fire apparatus. The revolutionary design placed the driver and officer ahead of the engine with vastly improved visibility. The front-end design was inspired by GM's futuristic "F" Series locomotive – the Train of Tomorrow.

GM's "F-Series" Train of Tomorrow inspired the cutting edge design of the 700-series

The cab-ahead-of-engine layout also resulted in less weight on the front axle, resulting in easier handling and steering with a crew of up to 8 personnel. With a wheelbase of just 160 inches, the new 700 series fire engines boasted a nimble 25-foot turning radius. Forward visibility was improved by 250% compared to the wartime trucks. Having the engine behind the cab (instead of over it) resulted in reduced noise levels inside the cab and improved weight distribution for handling. The 700 series truck appeared on the January 1947 cover of Popular Science and was the feature for a two-page spread in LIFE Magazine.

American LaFrance took a huge gamble in committing all of its financial and production resources (including a complete plant re-tolling) for this design. Despite competing companies criticizing the 700, calling it "the suicide cab", this design proved to be the forefather of how trucks are made today.

An earlier picture showing the original Roto Ray warning light above the cab

Former RFD Chief Keith Weisgerber once drove and served on E-174 providing 3 days of mutual aid to the Detroit Fire Department (DFD) during the 1967 Riot (Sunday, July 23 to Thursday, July 27 1967). The five days of chaos were among the worst in US history:
  • On Monday, July 24:
    • The DFD responded 483 fires
    • 231 incidents reported per hour to police
    • 1,800 arrests
  • Many of Detroit's police and fire stations were under attack by snipers (26 arrests)
  • 1,682 fires were fought over the five-day period
    • 276 runs completed by mutual aid
    • FF John Ashby and FF Carl Smith were lost in the line of duty
  • Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh and Michigan Governor George Romney declared Detroit as being in a State of Emergency/Insurrection, prompting US President Lyndon Johnson to deploy 2,600 National Guard and US Army Troops to assist in regaining control
  • President Lyndon Johnson publicly addressed the nation via national television on all major networks to offer updates and encourage calm
  • There were 43 civilian deaths
  • Losses from arson and looting estimated at $60-million (period value)
  • More than 2,000 buildings were destroyed and/or subsequently demolished due to damage
  • More than 5,000 homes were burned or destroyed (388 families & over 7,000 people rendered homeless)
  • Over 2,500 stores looted or burned
  • 7,200 arrests (age 4 to 82)
  • 10,000 estimated participants
  • Over 100,000 estimated onlookers

67 different communities (including Canadian personnel and apparatus from Windsor, ON) assisted the DFD with the riot, which occupied over 130sq miles at its height. Communication and coordinating efforts between the different fire departments was very difficult due to the fact only a small handful of the mutual aid companies used the same radio frequency as the Detroit Fire Department. To combat this communication gap, task forces were created consisting of 2 engines and one ladder truck with one unit always being that of the DFD.

E-174 ran out of Roseville's FD Headquarters until about 1970 when it moved to station #2 (Frazho Rd.) for its last decade of service. It was used as a funeral caisson on 3 occasions during Chief Weisberger's career for firefighters who were lost in the line of duty. FF Edwin C. Harris Sr (auto accident while responding to a fire on January 27, 1964), Asst. Chief James J. Mitchell (lost while commanding a 2-alarm fire at Detroit Plastics Plant Inc on October 22, 1968) and Fire Sgt. Joseph E. Riesterer Jr (killed while fighting a vacant dwelling fire on June 11, 1977) all had their last ride on E-174.

After being removed from front-line service in 1979, this engine served as a reserve unit before being retired from the only department it ever knew on October 14, 1981.

Serving caisson duty for Asst. Chief James J. Mitchell (1968)

Shortly after retirement, a Canadian purchased the engine (still complete with all purchase/service records) and imported it North of the border. After a brief stint, it was sold again to the late Bruce Paine who had a body restoration and paint job completed (early 1990s). After over a decade of sitting, E-174 is now back on the the road, referred to as "Rosie" and being shown throughout Southwestern Ontario and Michigan.

Historical information courtesy of Walt McCall, Kevin Paine, Chief Keith Weisgerber (RET), and the Roseville Fire Department