DEADWOOD | Mike Runge doesn't know just where Deadwood Fire Engine No. 2 has been all these years, but he sure hopes to find out.
Runge, archivist for Deadwood Historic Preservation and a Deadwood firefighter, is doing some sleuthing to fill in years, if not decades, of history for the old 1947 Dodge Howe pumper, recently returned to the Deadwood VFD after purchase from its most recent owner in De Smet.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge, but we’re starting to figure things out,” Runge said.
What is known is that the old pumper served the Deadwood Fire Department from 1953 through 1963.
Included in that stint was duty protecting homes and businesses during the epic 1959 Deadwood Fire.
Retired Deadwood firefighter Jerry Pontius said Fire Truck No. 2 worked its way across the north side of Deadwood where homes were threatened -- and in some cases lost -- at the height of the fire’s initial run on Sept. 8, 1959.
The fire truck eventually was on guard at the intersection of Highway 14A and Highway 85, after a wind switch pushed flames to the south, Pontius said.
“Of course by then the fire was on the other side of Deadwood,” he said.
The old Dodge continued to serve until a new truck took its place. The old fire truck went to the St. Onge Volunteer Fire Department.
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“We lost track of it after that,” Pontius said.
Fast forward to earlier this year when former Spearfish fire chief Jerry Kranbeck called Runge and said he knew of an old Deadwood Fire Truck in De Smet.
The department finally completed the deal with owner Fred Johnson in July, buying the old engine for $2,500, with another $800 needed to get the truck transported from east-central South Dakota to Deadwood.
Plans are to get the fire truck in good running order for use in parades, fire prevention demonstrations and even funerals. At the top of what will likely be a long repair list are functioning brakes and a complete exhaust system.
As for restoring the traditional red paint and gold-leaf lettering, Pontius said firefighters like the aged, veteran patina of the old Dodge.
They plan to take care of any exterior surface rust, then protect the faded paint as is with a clear coat.
“It’s got a real old look to it, because of the weathering,” Pontius said.
In the meantime, Runge will continue to track down the full history of Fire Engine No. 2. It may have been property of the Pine Haven, Wyo., Fire Dept. at some point.
“We don’t have a lot more information,” Runge said.