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Saturday CarToon: 1958 GMC/Pitman 50′ Snorkel

The Quinn era in Chicago

The Fire Products Company re-packaged films and news coverage on fire operations into the Ahrens-Fox VHS Video Library in the 1990s. The Webster Groves, Missouri, company worked with local experts and occasionally provided narration on film clips that went back to the 1890s. recently posted the Ahrens-Fox Video Library segment on the original snorkel squad:

Mack, posting in forum on July 27, 2010 provided extensive details, including this:

In September, 1958, Pitman delivered a 50 foot elevating platform mounted on a General Motors Corporation chassis, and the platforms was outfitted. In the Chicago Fire Department Shops. Tests showed that engines pumping into base mounted water inlets could produce a stream of 1,200 gallons per minute, through a 2" diameter nozzle, at a maximum pressure of 100 psi.

The platform got its first test of fire at 1:00 am on the 18th of October, 1958. When it was called to a 4 alarm lumberyard fire on Chicago's south side. Fireman John Windle, operating the nozzle from the basket, helped to bring the blaze under control in a fraction of the time normally expected for a fire of equal magnitude.

First Deputy Fire Marshal James A Bailey said "I can't believe how quickly and accurately it worked. It really plastered this fire in a hurry." Chief Fire Marshal Raymond J. Daley said "In 33 yrs of fire fighting I never saw anything as effective and maneuverable."  link HERE

The company that made the videos appears out of business. Many of the videos are unavailable. Some of the FDNY ones are found on YouTube.

Endorsement from Michael Boynton of

Normally I do not promote products here, but this one is an exception. The Ahrens Fox Video Library has 25 videos to choose from, and among them are several from Massachusetts, particularly Norfolk& Bristol Counties.

These videos were filmed by the late Stanley Chilson, possibly the area's pioneer in on-scene photography. In fact, Mr. Chilson  was the official photographer for several communities, including Franklin, Millis & Plainville.

I now have 5 videos from the collection:

  • Firefighting In New England Vols. 1 & 2
  • Fire In The Woods
  • Classic Fire Engines
  • Fires, Wrecks & Rescues.

That last title was very special. While watching it, I saw footage from an early 1940's   MVA in Franklin where my Grandfather, Franklin Police Sgt. Ned Dacey, was assisting  an injured patient. Good stuff! There are also black & white and color videos from fires  & incidents from Walpole, Wrentham, Norfolk, Fall River, Norwood, New Bedford, and more.

And, there is a special segment on the creation of the Massachusetts Forest Fire Control.  I'm quite pleased with my purchase!! LINK to the FSP site here.

Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

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