Driver training is a vital part of a firefighter’s never-ending education. The ability to competently – and safely – drive fire service vehicles ranging from chief’s automobiles to big pumpers and heavy aerial ladder trucks is a necessary skill acquired only after many hours of instruction, and practice. For many years, it was common practice to train new drivers on in-service apparatus on local streets. This training was often overseen by the fire department’s master mechanic.
So it was on a summer afternoon in August 1927 that the Walkerville Fire Department scheduled a driver training session for some of its men. The firefighters were being trained to drive and tiller the department’s largest piece of apparatus – a 1913 W.E. Seagrave 85-foot aerial which had been modernized a few years earlier with a new Gotfredson four-wheel motor tractor.
But during the routine training session, something went terribly wrong. While barreling down Walker Road, the driver apparently lost control and the big ladder truck swerved off the road onto the shoulder and collided head-on with a steel hydro pole. The tillerman – perched high above the long ladder truck’s rear wheels – was hurled from his seat and fatally injured. The two men riding on the front seat of the tractor were seriously injured.
Later that year, a new Gotfredson tractor built by the Gotfredson Corporation in Walkerville was attached to the 1913 aerial truck trailer. Following a collision with a car on Drouillard Rd. in November, 1949 the former Walkerville aerial truck was taken out of service and scrapped. – Walt McCall