Fire department wagon has served generations of firefighters

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vicksburg fire chief Charles Atkins inspects "Old Number 7," as he calls the old horse-drawn wagon Tuesdsay at the abandoned Halls Ferry fire station. The department used the wagon to transport hoses many years ago. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg fire chief Charles Atkins inspects “Old Number 7,” as he calls the old horse-drawn wagon Tuesdsay at the abandoned Halls Ferry fire station. The department used the wagon to transport hoses many years ago. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Hidden in the bay of the old fire station on Halls Ferry Road is a link to the Vicksburg Fire Department’s horse-and-buggy past.

It’s not much to look at now. The red paint is peeling off the wood and the metal pieces are rusting as it sits amid the clutter of exercise equipment and fire hoses in the bay of a fire station that once housed firefighters and a diesel pumper. It’s current home is itself a piece of fire department history.

In its best years, the hook and ladder wagon, which bears the designation “VFD No. 7,” was part of an era of firefighting dominated by huge, fire steam pumpers mounted on horse-drawn wagons pulled by teams of from two to four horses that would charge out of stations at a full gallop in response to the fire bell.

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Station No. 7 on South Washington Street, the wagon’s original home, was built in 1910, and remains part of the city’s fire station system.

“If you go over there, you can see the bricks that were raised so the horses could get traction to pull out of the station on a fire call,” Fire Chief Charles Atkins said. He said the wagon was used to carry hoses and firefighters to fires.

“The hoses were different, then,” he said. “They weren’t reinforced like they are now. They were made of rubber and (the thickness) was more like a garden hose.”

When the fire department discontinued using horse-drawn wagons in favor of trucks in 1923, the wagon went into storage and was transferred to several stations before winding up at the old No. 8.

“It was moved around through generations (of firefighters),” Atkins said.

“They used it in parades for a long time,” said Hardy Katzenmeyer, whose father, Hardy Ketzenmeyer Sr. was a Vicksburg fire chief. “It used to be kept behind the Constitution fire station,” “The fire station had a place for storage where they kept the wagon. We used to play on it as kids.”

Atkins didn’t remember when the wagon was moved to the old Halls Ferry station, but hopes it will meet a better fate than the station, which he said is destined to be demolished in the future.

Built in 1957 when Halls Ferry Road was narrower, fire station No. 8 was closed in 2000 when the road was widened and cut off the station’s driveway almost at the truck bay door.

The firefighters and equipment were relocated to a building in Halls Ferry Park by Home Depot. The park later became the station’s permanent home when the building the fire department used was remodeled. Since its closure, the old building has served as a storage site for equipment and old department records. No date has been set for the station’s demolition.

Atkins would like to see the wagon refurbished and placed on display, either at the State Fire Marshal’s Office or as a display in the city.

“I’m going to offer it to the fire marshal, and see if they want to try and fix it up,” he said. “If they don’t want it, I’ll see if some of our guys want to see what they can do.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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