“The General” is pictured in 2018, after having been restored by a private collector. The fire engine served the Bascom Fire Department in the late 1920s and ended up in Montana, where it has undergone slight reconstruction work. A “Bring Home the General” campaign raised funds to purchase the fire engine and return it to Seneca County. (Provided photo)


For The Courier

TIFFIN — After 92 years, a Seneca County relic is to return home this spring.

“The General,” an original fire engine purchased in the late 1920s by the Bascom Fire Department, was in service at the department until 1950. It will be repurchased from a collector with funds raised by the Seneca County Firefighter’s Association’s “Bring the General Home” fund, which attained most of its funding goal in January.

“It’s still an ongoing project, because we need the funds to go and get it still, but we’ve raised the $40,000 that the collector was asking for it, so plans are in place to head out there and make the purchase official in early March,” said Joe Brandt, former Bascom fire chief and a member of the Seneca County Firefighter’s Association.

Brandt said he and his daughters are set to fly west and meet the General’s current owner in Hamilton, Montana, about an hour south of Missoula, in early March to finalize paperwork for the purchase. The family is paying for this trip out of pocket, as money still needs to be raised to transport the fire engine back to Ohio.

“A few fellow firefighters and I are planning to drive a large enclosed trailer out there, hopefully in late March, to get the General,” Brandt said. “That trip’s about 2,000 miles each way.”

The “Bring the General Home” project was created in 2018 to help the Seneca County Firefighter’s Association purchase and eventually transport the 1920s fire engine originally used by Bascom firefighters all those decades ago. Brandt, with the help of fellow Bascom firefighter Joe Reinhart, found the antique fire engine online in a private collection, and it happened to be for sale.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe the turn of events in finding that truck online,” Brandt said.

He said in scrolling through a website a particular fire engine for sale caught his eye. “I noticed the fire engine for sale was about as old as the General would be, and upon calling the owner I asked him about some of the quirks I knew about our old fire truck, to see if this truck was truly ours.

“He said the windshield and chemical tanks had been replaced, and he told me all of the places the truck had gone to after Bascom, and we knew it was our truck at that point.”

Upon finding this piece of Bascom Fire Department history online and available for purchase, Brandt and colleagues decided to create the “Bring the General Home” project. Even once funds are in place and Brandt and his fellow firefighters make the trip to retrieve the engine, there is still some reconstructive work to be done on the antique.

“The fire engine will need to be relettered, as close to the original lettering as we can make it,” he said. “The only picture we have doesn’t show all of the original lettering, so we’ll have to just paint it how we imagine it was.”

Aside from different lettering and insignia on the fire engine, though, Brandt said the General can still be driven.

“Honestly, she’s pretty much in great condition today,” he said.

Bret Nye is a reporter for the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune. Contact him at bnye@advertiser-tribune.com.