The City Magazine Since 1975

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels
January 2015

Here’s a fun fact: the Charleston Fire Department purchased the South’s third motorized fire engine in 1910—just following departments in Augusta and Macon, Georgia. Unleashing 700 gallons per minute, the Webb combination fire engine and hose wagon easily outperformed its predecessor, the horse-drawn steam engine. In a 1915 report, local Firemasters chairman Charles Valk affirmed the engine’s superiority—“besides relieving a number of men from the care of horses, acting as stokers for fire duty, these motor machines can cover three times the territory in much less time”—and urged Mayor John P. Grace to purchase additional units. But at $10,000 (approximately $235,082 today), the engines were not cheap. As a result, the department did not become fully motorized until 1926, around the time that this photo of Charleston Motor Engine Company No. 7 and its American-La France triple combination engine was taken. You may recognize the 5 Cannon Street fire station in the background; built in 1888, it is one of the city’s oldest.