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Years of work, $30,000 and volunteers restore Greensburg fire engine

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 8:34 p.m.
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Greensburg volunteer firefighter Clyde Snyder (right) stands with the restored 1949 Seagrave with firefighter Larry Kempert.
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It took $30,000, years of work and some body work from inmates at a state prison to restore the 1949 Seagrave to its original glory.
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This black-and-white photograph is the original factory photo of the 1949 Seagrave engine.

Greensburg firefighter Clyde Snyder has been fond of the department's 1949 Seagrave engine ever since he was a Boy Scout in the 1960s.

“I got pretty well attracted to it, and I can remember it from when I was a child,” Snyder said. “It was a piece of equipment I thought was just neat. I liked the looks of it.”

Snyder's efforts in restoring the engine recently helped earn him accolades as Firefighter of the Year from the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department's Hose Company No. 8.

Snyder joined the department in 1969. The Seagrave had been delivered in the summer of 1949.

The department retired the truck 16 years after buying it. The vehicle was then used by the city streets department before serving as the original Westmoreland County HAZMAT vehicle for the hazardous material team.

The engine spent time at the former Volkswagen plant near New Stanton and was at Westmoreland County Community College twice. On its last stint at the college near Youngwood, the engine sat for three or four years in a field.

“All it was used for was dragging ball fields,” Snyder said.

The truck came back to the fire department in the early 1980s.

It then basically sat for decades until efforts to refurbish it were rekindled a few years ago.

Getting the truck into the condition it can be seen today in the fire department's museum behind city hall took a lot of time and effort.

“It was a lot of work to get it up and running,” Snyder said.

In the early part of this century, Forbes Road fire Chief Robert Rosatti suggested inmates at the State Correctional Institution-Albion in Erie County might be able to help restore the engine, Snyder said.

“We contacted them ... and they were interested in restoring it and getting it running,” Snyder said.

The inmates did a lot of the body work.

The truck returned from the prison to Greensburg in 2005, and firefighters worked to get the pumper in working order. They rewired it and worked on the carburetor and engine, Snyder said.

“There's been a number of people who have helped with it over the years,” Snyder said.

Firefighters were able to restore the engine in time for a reception for the 50th anniversary of the St. Vincent College fire. The engine helped battle that blaze on Jan. 29, 1963.

Rick Hoyle, an assistant fire chief and Greensburg road superintendent, said he and John Solochier, a city mechanic who is a fireman, worked on the truck during their off hours.

“It's the only piece of fire apparatus around that actually fought that fire,” Hoyle said.

The truck cost at least $30,000 to restore, with funding coming from grants, fundraisers, firefighters and the fire department, Snyder said.

Snyder deserves a lot of the credit for restoring the Seagrave, Greensburg fire Chief J. Edward Hutchinson said.

“He had a lot of help, but he got it done,” Hutchinson said.

Workers still need to get the fire pumper to disperse water properly, Hoyle said.

“We tried to keep everything as original as it was the day we received it from Seagrave in 1949,” Hoyle added.

Despite the hard work, Snyder is glad the truck has been restored.

When he looks at the engine, Snyder said, he thinks of the firefighters who served on the truck.

“It's important to history,” he said.

“By preserving it, generations to come can see it and say, ‘Wow, that's what they used,” Hoyle said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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