1921 LaFrance Fire Engine

The story of the resurrection of one of the first non horse drawn NYC Fire Engines

By Bob Cerullo
Lieut. Aux Fire Corps (Ret)

(reprinted from WNYF magazine, second issue 1977)

The howling winter wind hurled giant snow flakes against the bedroom window panes as I glanced over the antique car ads in the Sunday New York Times on December morning in 1969. During many of numerous pleasant evening I spent as a regular Friday night visitor to the old Hook and Ladder Co. 4 in Manhattan, Ceaser “Sandy” Sansevero (Exec. Asst. to Fire Comm., then a Lieutenant in Ladder 4) and I had discussed the idea of restoring an old model “A” Ford. There were no listings in the paper for model A’s but there was a small listing for an old fire engine for sale up in Ellevenville, New York. Sandy and I had never considered restoring and old fire engine, but almost as if under a spell the phone began to ring and the voice on the other end was Sandy’s. He had seen the same ad and asked if I was still serious about a joint effort at restoring. We kidded each other about this being a crazy notion, but agreed to take the ride up to Ellenville just for the fun of it. A phone call to the number listed in the gave me very little information except that the rig was an American La France pumper and that it could be seen as soon as the snow cleared enough for us to get up there.

My Dad, Vin Cerullo, Sr. greeted the incredible idea of restoring an old pumper with great enthusiasm. He immediately became a part of the three man team that at his point had considered only taking a ride in the country to look at an old fire engine; nothing more. The ride up to Ellenville was filled with jokes and wild kidding about the ultimate buff who buys himself a fire engine of his own. None of us, especially our wives, gave any serious thought to the prospect of our actually buying this fire engine.

When we arrived, the snow was too deep for our children our wives to get near the old rig which stood forlorn, half covered in snow at the side of a dilapidated barn. It was just Sandy, Vin, and myself who got a close-up look.

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