LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- A rare fire engine is returning to Las Cruces after decades away from home.
Fire Engine's History
The 1915 Ford Model-T Type A chemical fire engine (the earliest known fire engine in Las Cruces) fought fires from the year it was built until it was decommissioned in 1934.
The engine rusted away in a scrap yard until volunteer firefighter Joe Melendrez saved the vehicle in 1937. The Melendrez family cared for the engine and allowed it to be used in parades until 1999, when Oregon resident Wes Melo bought and restored it.
Return to Las Cruces
Now, the Melo family is gifting the Model-T back to the City of Las Cruces.
“It’s your fire engine now. It belongs back here,” said Melo. “That fire engine is important to the city. It was an honor for me to give it back to the city.”
A Rare Treasure
According to the City of Las Cruces, a historian recently found that the engine could be the second oldest of its kind to still exist. The vehicle is also special because it is one of a few rare "chemical engines."
"The concept was invented in France in the 1860s and utilizes two 25-gallon tanks that produce a chemical reaction from concentrated sulfuric acid and sodium bicarbonate to pressurize the hose lines," the City of Las Cruces explained in a news release Wednesday.
The city also explained that before Las Cruces bought the fire engine in 1915, firefighters had to use buckets and horse-drawn wagons to fight fires. When the Model-T arrived in the city, it revolutionized the way firefighters did their job.
The Future of the Chemical Engine
“We’re pleased and honored to receive this engine back into our fleet,” said Las Cruces Fire Chief Jason Smith. “We’re grateful for the gift bestowed upon us by Mr. Melo and his family. Wes has cared for this engine for many years and now it will serve as a testament to the long and proud history of our department.”
The public will one day be able to enjoy the Ford, according to a city spokesperson.
"Smith says the 1915 engine will find a permanent home for display when Fire Station 9 is constructed on the City’s East Mesa," the news release explained. "The apparatus, which runs and functions as new, will be utilized during parades and events."