The $12,500 LaFrance fire truck bought by the town some weeks ago demonstrated its valuableness Monday night; and convinced even the skeptical of the wisdom of the investment.
The fire alarm sounded at 3:15 Monday night, or rather Tuesday morning, the house of Lonnie Womble on Skipper street being on fire. By the time the truck arrived, the building was beyond saving, and the adjoining house occupied by Mary McFadyen, also colored, had caught. Seven hundred feet of hose had to be laid to connect with the nearest hydrant, and this hydrant was in a bottom which made the pressure so weak as to make fire-fighting a joke. But here the power of the new machine came into play. As soon as the couplings were made, the powerful pump on the truck was set to work, and instantly the weak stream was changed into one so strong as to almost knock the very shingles off the house. In a very little time the flames on the McFadyen house were extinguished.
Adjoining the McFadyen house was that of Jennie Hinson, barely ten feet away, and in close proximity were many other small houses occupied by colored people. Had not such a fire-truck been available, no doubt many of these colored houses would have been in ashes today.
Skipper street is the dividing line between the corporate limits of Rockingham. The houses were on the east side of that street and so out of town; but that didn’t matter. The town machine and fire-fighters just as readily responded and worked as though it had been in the heart of town. As a matter of fact, the only fires we’ve had since getting the truck were out of town—in west Rockingham, here on Skipper street, and several weeks ago the freighter car on the Seaboard tracks when a number of Guernsey cows form Marshville were burned.
$12,500 was a lot of money in 1921. Here's a photo of a restored 1921 LaFrance fire truck, restored by the Kansas Fire Fighter's Museum, Wichita, Kansas. Kansasfirefightersmuseum.com.