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1967 Michener Centre fire truck is back in Red Deer — at Sunnybrook Farm

Volunteers plan to use it in parades
Sunnybrook Farm Museum volunteer Robin Larsen demonstrates how a tilting cab works on a 1967 Ford fire truck the museum has on display. The engine can now be accessed for repairs. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

A 55-year-old fire truck from Michener Centre has come full circle, returning to retire at Red Deer’s Sunnybrook Farm Museum.

“We were asked if we would like to have it back in Red Deer — and we said we would love it,” said Ian Warwick, executive-director of Sunnybrook Farm on Friday.

He imagines students on school field trips will be thrilled to see the Ford-made fire truck from 1967, with pumper crafted by the Thibault company in Pierreville, Que.

Warwick envisions the blazing red vehicle — still equipped with fire hose, ladder, axes and other supplies — someday driven in local parades.

The pumper truck had been used at Red Deer’s institution for the mentally disabled until about 1972, and was then decommissioned.

It spent more recent years at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, east of Edmonton, where it was used as a backup fire engine until it started to have maintenance and safety issues.

Sunnybrook volunteer and co-founder Robin Larsen knows the pumper was actually used to fight fires in the Ukrainian village because there was still water in its tanks when it was returned to Red Deer two weeks ago.

“It blew us away that it still ran,” admitted Warwick.

Although a trailer had been sent up to the Ukrainian village to transport the retired fire truck back to Red Deer, “we actually could have driven it,” if registration and vehicle insurance were in place, added Larsen.

The museum’s board previously turned down a fire truck from the 1970s because it was from B.C. and had no connection to central Alberta. Warwick said he was very happy to accept the Michener Centre fire truck, with old-fashioned tilting cab that allows for accessing the engine.

Although the institution has controversial chapters in its history, it’s been part of the Red Deer area for decades so has a past worth preserving, he added.

Under the logo painted on the vehicle’s doors is earlier writing that can just be made out: Alberta School Hospital Fire Department. That’s what Michener Centre was called before its name was changed, said Warwick.

For now, the vehicle is being stored inside one of the museum’s sheds, but Warwick will be looking for a small rural fire hall that could be transported to the farm museum in future.

Renovations on a rural church brought to the property a year ago are now nearing completion. Warwick believes a fire hall would show another facet of rural life in the mid 20th century.

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