THE RIVERSIDE QUINT
The Quintuple Combination – or “Quint” – is the Swiss Army Knife of fire trucks. As its numerical name implies, the versatile “quint” combines five basic types of firefighting apparatus on a single chassis – a fire pump, booster tank and hose (or preconnect) system, a hose bed, a full complement of portable ground ladders — and an aerial ladder or elevating platform.
Although Seagrave and American-LaFrance introduced the first full-fledged quintuple combination pumper/aerials in the late 1930s and early `40s, the quint concept did not gain widespread fire service acceptance in the U.S. and Canada until the advent of short-wheelbase rearmount aerials and elevating platforms in the 1960s and `70s.
The Windsor Fire Department got its first quint through a municipal annexation. On January 1, 1966 the City of Windsor annexed the former Town of Riverside, Sandwich East Township and portions of Sandwich West Township.The former Riverside Fire Department and one of Sandwich West’s two halls became part of an enlarged Windsor Fire Department.
The former Riverside fire station on Lauzon Road (and the three pieces of fire apparatus in it) were integrated into the W.F.D. The hall was renumbered as Windsor’s Fire Station No. 7. The Riverside apparatus included a 1956 American-LaFrance pumper, a 1938 Bickle-Ford pumper – and a nearly-new LaFrance/Mercury Quintuple Combination pumper and aerial ladder truck.
The citizens of Riverside were fiercely proud of their volunteer fire department. Even with the bitterly-contested annexation looming, Riverside Town Council nonetheless voted to purchase an aerial ladder truck – the town’s first – for Fire Chief Ken Friest and his dedicated volunteers. Built by LaFrance Fire Engine & Foamite Ltd. of Toronto at a contract price of $51,800, the big quint was equipped with an 840 gallon-per-minute Waterous pump, a 240-gallon water tank and a four-section, 100-foot steel aerial ladder. Delivered to Riverside in mid-November of 1964, the quint was built on a Mercury tilt-cab chassis with canopy crew cab extension. After several weeks of intensive training, the big aerial was placed into service in December as the R.F.D.’s Unit #3.
Less than fourteen months after it had been delivered, Riverside’s barely used quint was added to the Windsor Fire Department’s apparatus roster. Not long after, the former Riverside ladder truck was quietly spirited out of the Lauzon Road station and transferred to Windsor’s Station 4 on College Avenue in the west end of the city, where it was relettered Aerial No., 4A. It didn’t take long for the citizens of Riverside to discover what had happened. The hue and cry was loud — and long. Regardless, the ex-Riverside quint stayed at Station 4 where it responded to alarms as a ladder truck. Except for training, its pump was seldom used.
Aerial No. 4A battled some of Windsor’s largest fires, including the J.T. Wing Co. fire which burned all day on February 27, 1971. Tragically, late in the afternoon fire fighter Len Bondy died when he fell from the tip of the fully-extended aerial ladder while redirecting the ladder pipe stream at this fire.
In the early 1980s, the quint was repainted lime green – although the interior of the cab and aerial ladder control pedestal remained the original LaFrance maroon. When the W.F.D. received two new aerials in 1981 and 1982, the LaFrance-Mercury quint saw service at various other fire stations, including Station 3 on Edinborough St. and Station 6 on Tecumseh Rd. E. at Ferndale.
Ironically, the Quint ended its fire service career in the same station to which it had been originally delivered many years earlier – the former Rivedrside Fire Hall on Lauzon Road. Sometime in the late 1990s, the well-worn, retired quint was sold to a volunteer fire company in Pennsylvania. Still powered by its original Ford 534 cubic inch V-8 gasoline engine (and manual transmission) it was driven to its new home in the United States without incident. The aerial ladder and rear body were reportedly later transferred to a new chassis. More than four decades after it was built, it may still be answering alarms!
In 1998, the Quintuple Combination era arrived in Wndsor in a big way with the delivery of five new Sutphen Aerial Towers – three 95-footers and two 70-foot mini-towers – all equipped with 1050 igpm pumps, booster system, hose bed, ground ladders and telescopic aerial device.