WARNER ROBINS -- The city's firefighters are working to preserve their history.
The City Council has approved $60,000 to repair Warner Robins' first fire station, located behind City Hall, and work is expected to start soon.
Firefighters want to turn the station that opened in 1959 into a museum. They plan to restore it to its original condition, complete with the equipment and bunks it would have had when it opened. They also have rescued one of the city's first two fire trucks, which was rusting away in a field.
"Warner Robins doesn't have a lot of historic buildings, so we would like to preserve this one and do what we can to show the history of the Warner Robins Fire Department," Fire Chief Robert Singletary said.
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A couple of years ago fire officials found out that one of the original trucks was still in Middle Georgia, buried under kudzu near Marshallville. Now they are trying to bring it back to its first home.
Firefighters and mechanics at the city maintenance shop are aiming to restore the 1959 American LaFrance truck to its original condition and get it running. They have already cranked it.
This week, the wheels had been taken off so the brakes could be repaired.
The city's first fire chief, Ernest Wood, was there when the truck was returned back to the city on the back of a flatbed trailer.
"He said it's like one of your babies coming back home," said Deputy Chief Ross Moulton, who has been helping with the restoration.
The city's original station, called Station 1, was last used as a fire station in 2007. With the growth of the city and the addition of other stations, it was no longer considered to be in a good location to achieve the best response times. It was used by the police department for a few years and then returned to the fire department a couple of years ago.
The truck was donated to the fire department by Danny Evans, whose father, Foy Evans, served as a mayor of Warner Robins. The truck at some point was donated to the Marshallville Fire Department, then Evans acquired it.
When Evans heard that the Warner Robins Fire Department had reacquired its original station, he let them know that he had the city's first truck. The markings on the truck confirm it. Evans pulled it out of the kudzu and brought it back to the city.
Singletary has a picture taken of the new trucks and firefighters when the station first opened. By looking at some of the faded markings on the truck they have as well as the trucks in the photo, they know which truck it is in the photo.
Moulton said they are going to use the photo to try to get as close to the original as they can. They probably won't try to restore the pump to working order, but he didn't rule that out as a possibility down the road.
The $60,000 that the city has given for the project is solely to preserve the building. It has a bad roof and cracks in the wall that need to be repaired, as well as other structural issues. A lot of cosmetic work remains to be done, and the firefighters plan to handle that themselves.
Singletary said there is no timeline for when the station might open as a museum, but he indicated it would be a while. Donations could speed it up, he said. Anyone interested in helping may contact the fire department.
When it's ready to open, the museum wouldn't be staffed. Singletary said it could be open during special events or could also open during limited hours on other days.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.