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Chemical Fire Engine

fire extinguisher

Old Fire Extinguisher

This tank is called a chemical fire engine. It was manufactured by O.J. Childs Company, manufacturers of chemical fire apparatus in Utica, New York. This model was built prior to World War I. It was originally purchased by the Sauk Centre Fire Department and sold to the Elrosa Fire Department in Stearns County in 1920. When empty, it weighs 170 pounds.

This apparatus, which looks more like a large fire extinguisher, is normally stored full of water in a non-freezing environment, always in a horizontal position, on a four-wheeled cart which is usually pulled by manpower. The cart is not part of the original unit and must be built separately. The crank on the top is used to tip over a cup-like container on the inside filled with a soda-like chemical. An acid is added to the water at the same time to form a chemical reaction, creating high pressure which forces the water out. Water pressure can be controlled by the shutoff valve (missing on this unit). It is not known why it is called a “fire engine” instead of a fire extinguisher because it has no moving parts except the hand crank which dumps the cup of dry chemical into the water on the inside.

The acid and powder are stored separately from the water and are added to the water on the spot of the fire as the chemical reaction is almost instantaneous.

This apparatus is lacking a 100-foot hose, a shut-off valve and a pressure gauge. It served as the Elrosa Fire Department’s main fire fighting tool until 1954 when the fire department got its first fire truck. In the early 1960’s the fire department discarded this apparatus and it was thrown on a junk pile on David Heinze’s farm in Lake George Township where it laid for 45 years. At the Elrosa Centennial in 2008, David restored it, mounted it on a cart and had it in the centennial parade. It was again retrieved from the junk pile and donated to the Todd County Museum in 2010.

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