Fire Chief’s Command Post
Gone But Not Forgotten
Janet Wilmoth February 2nd, 2012
Passion for the fire service doesn’t end with retirement. Rather, it is cherished and kept alive in the hearts and memories of the men and women who put in many years answering calls through all kinds of weather, hazards and hardships. Retired firefighters tend to linger on the sidelines of firehouses across the country, ready to assist with a colorful story or lesson learned from their years on the job.
Retired firefighters are sort of a forgotten legion, which is why I was so impressed several years
ago when I visited Phoenix and learned that the Retired Firefighters Association of Tucson
created the Last Alarm Foundation. The non-profit foundation was looking to purchase an
abandoned 1954 Mack L Model pumper and convert it into a fire engine/hearse to carry retired or
active firefighters to their “last alarm.”
The fire truck originally was owned by the Long Beach (Calif.) Fire Department and had been
abandoned in a lot near the desert. It took six years and hundreds of hours of labor and love to
restore and adapt the unit. A local businessman made an initial donation of $1,200 and Daniel
Matlick, owner of United Fire Equipment, helped the group achieve a 501c3 non-profit status.
Eventually, more than $300,000 was raised to complete the restoration.
Preferred Chassis Fabrication performed the restoration work, which included installing a one-ofa-
kind electric lift to safely raise and lower a casket on and off the vehicle. The first official use of
the vehicle was on Dec. 16, to carry the ashes of Jim Russell, a retired deputy chief and
restoration director of the fire engine/hearse.
The fire engine/hearse is available not only for retired or active duty firefighters, but family
members and law-enforcement personnel. The completion of the restoration is not the end for
this project and fundraising will continue to maintain, insure and operate the engine. Donations
can be made at www.lastalarmfoundation.org, where you also can look at photos of the project
from start to finish.
The Last Alarm project not only offers a unique vehicle to participate in funerals and memorials,
but it frees up local apparatus for continued service to their communities. This fire engine/hearse
is a fitting tribute to those who have served and to show that they are not forgotten for their