Florida collector snaps up Greensburg VFD truck
By Bob Stiles
Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Joe Rodgers took a one-man road trip from Pennsylvania to Florida last month to move a 67,900-pound vehicle.
He bought Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department's 1988 aerial truck in an Internet auction for $9,100.02.
He then headed out Nov. 25 on his journey from Greensburg, Pa., to Wellington, Fla.
“They put me on to Route 119 ... and off I went,” Rodgers said.
Three days and 1,292 miles later, Rodgers and his nearly 57-foot-long truck arrived home.
“It's a feeling I can't describe,” the collector said about riding a fire truck. “State police flash lights. People give you thumbs-up. Everybody loves a fire truck.”
Rodgers, 62, who drives a bulldozer for the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority, flew by plane into Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity on Nov. 24.
The next day, he met with Greensburg officials before traveling 325 miles and staying overnight at a hotel in West Virginia.
At first, Rodgers was concerned the clerk at the hotel reception desk might be worried about a big, red-and-white fire truck parking in the lot.
“I said I didn't want anybody to think their hotel was on fire,” Rodgers recalled. “She said, ‘No, that's fine. Pull it where the buses park.'”
The next morning, he woke up, cleared the inch-thick ice spread across the truck and resumed his trip.
“The hook and ladder; I fell in love with it coming back from Pennsylvania. It's unique,” he said.
He drove straight through for the rest of the trip, reaching Wellington at 11 a.m. on Nov. 27.
Along the way, Rodgers, who moved from Massachusetts to Florida about a decade ago, encountered more ice and rain.
In all, he spent $912.99 on fuel, getting about 5.4 miles per gallon, Rodgers said.
He has wanted an aerial truck for years.
“I do collect fire trucks, and I didn't have a hook and ladder,” Rodgers said. “I always wanted a hook and ladder.”
He will add the aerial truck to a 1935 Ford Seagrave Fire Apparatus pumper that he owns. He also owns a 1963 B Model Mack truck, which he restored.
He recently sold another fire truck he bought in Pennsylvania to a California man.
Greensburg officials said they no longer could use the 25-year-old truck because it wouldn't meet firefighting certification requirements.
“I am glad the old girl is getting use in Florida, as she lived a good life with the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department,” said City Administrator Sue Trout, who helped to organize the sale.
Greensburg bought a $1 million Smeal Apparatus Co. ladder truck as a replacement. It went into operation earlier this year.
Greensburg has used the Municibid website for the last eight years to sell used items, Trout said.
“We have been selling all our used assets in this format as there is no cost to the city,” she said. “It has saved the city a lot of time and money as opposed to going through a bid process to sell used items.”
The city will add the money raised from the sale to the Greensburg Fire Department Capital Equipment fund, Trout said.
Before bidding in the auction ended at 3:52 p.m. on Nov. 21, at least one other person wanted the truck, Rodgers said.
“By 3:55, I realized I won it, and I was sitting on top of the world,” he said.
Rodgers said he plans on putting the truck in parades and using it for charity events.
He believes his love of fire trucks dates back to his youth, when his father helped buy fire trucks for the Boston Fire Department.
“I used to always be fascinated by hook and ladders. I said, ‘One day I'm going to own one of those,'” Rodgers said.
“Here it is, My day's complete.”
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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