#ThrowbackThursday: Kennewick Fire Department's very first fire - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

#ThrowbackThursday: Kennewick Fire Department's very first fire engine is back in all its golden glory

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KENNEWICK, WA - Kennewick Fire Department started back in the early 1900s. At first, the crew used hand trucks and buckets to put out fires in its inception. Then, in the 1920s the Fire Department bought its very first fire engine: Old Bessie.

A hand cranked siren, red lanterns and even wooden spokes make up Engine One. It sits inside the new Fire Station Five.

"Of course little kids are just enamored with this. When they start looking at the older engine, you can really get a sense of where we came from and where we're going," said Kennewick Firefighter Chris Feather.  "I love it."

Old Bessie retired in 1948.

"The last time it was used on an actual call was for the old Kennewick Hotel in downtown Kennewick that burned up," said retired Battalion Chief Chuck Spencer. He spent decades working in the Kennewick Fire Department before recently retiring. 

One Old Bessie retired, crews used the engine as a clown car for parades and events. But then, for decades, Engine One sat abandoned in a stall - eventually becoming a home for pigeons.

"When the fairgrounds wanted it out of there, then it was at Fire Station Three. That's where I first laid eyes on it," said Spencer.

You could call it love at first sight. Spencer says he conned his father into helping him restore it.

"It became a family event and a love affair to take it back and bring it back as much as we could," said Spencer.

One of the more interesting parts of Old Bessie was ornate gold leafing all over it. Spencer calls it a lost art. Also, after scraping through three layers of paint, he and his father discovered the box of the fire engine is actually an old military box. 

"Must have just sparkled like a diamond when it came in. Everywhere you see gold leaf on it now, is the exact place it was then," said Spencer.

After countless hours and a few thousand dollars, Old Bessie is an almost exact restoration. 

"Yeah my dad put a lot of time in it. He's looking down on it now going, yep, get it dusted, boy. It's dirty again," Spencer said with a laugh.

Kennewick's firefighter union owns Old Bessie and paid for the restoration project. The fire engine is almost on display at Fire Station Five off of 10th Avenue.      

Few people know how to drive Engine One (it has a double clutch!) but it does make appearances at events like parades, weddings, and funerals.

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