CLARK, NJ- The Clark Fire Department watched one of their leave recently after 50 years with the unit. Clark Engine 12, a 1912 American Lafrance pumper is headed back to the very place it started after some research, negotiating and logistics planning.
According to the FD, the engine was never used for fires, instead it made appearances at antique fire musters and parades since its acquisition in the 1970s. The Clark Fire Department Association fixed it up and got it a new paint job prior to their 75th anniversary in 1999.
Since then, Deputy Chief Matt Biondi said members have had less time, manpower and money to maintain it, so the engine has fallen into some disrepair.
The engine was originally purchased by the Lakewood Fire Department in Ohio. It served them from 1912 through 1928. Biondi said according to research, Lakewood FD returned it to American Lafrance as what appears to have been a trade-in.
It was later purchased by American Cyanmid in Linden and served their fire brigade according to Biondi. They later donated it to the No-Be-Bo-Sco Boy Scout Camp in northern New Jersey. It was here, members of the Clark FD discovered it after the BSA had retired it. Clark has been home ever since.
When the Clark FD recently decided to sell the engine, Biondi reached out to the Lakewood FD and came in contact with incoming Chief Timothy Dunphy. According to Clark Biondi, Dunphy said the department had been trying to track the engine down for some time. A picture of the long-lost engine even held a special spot on a wall in Dunphy’s home for years.
Dunphy made the trip to New Jersey to see the engine and verify it was the original one the Lakewood department owned. According to Biondi, once Dunphy realized it was indeed their original engine, he wasn’t leaving without it.
A deal was quickly brokered and today the engine is headed back to its original home in Lakewood, Ohio just in time for a recognition ceremony on October 6. The event will recognize retirees, including the current chief and usher in Dunphy as their new chief. It will also include an open house so the public can see the engine too.
“The guys can’t believe it’s leaving, but at least knowing it is going home makes us feel good about it,” said Biondi.
According to Clark FD members, the race to get approval, manage paperwork, funding and transport back to Ohio was no easy task but both sides worked diligently to make it happen in time for Sunday’s event. On September 29, the engine was on a flatbed truck destined to Lakewood.
Clark Chief Frank Cerasa reflected on the engine’s journey home. “It’s been a fixture here as long as I have been on the department, but it really belongs with them, it’s their history.”
Engine 17, as it was originally named in its early days of service in Lakewood, is home. Dunphy promised to send pictures and stay in touch with the Clark FD.
Editor's Note: TAPinto Clark would like to extend thanks to Deputy Chief Matt Biondi for providing extensive assistance in the preparations of this story!