More than 20 years ago, Lex Robb was driving along a Christchurch road when he saw something that made him jam on the brakes.
Fire chief of the Balfour Volunteer Fire Brigade at the time, he had seen a vehicle he recognised from years ago.
“I knew straight away,” Mr Robb said.
It was the fire engine the brigade used in his early years as a fireman.
“It was the first fire engine here in Balfour. Before that we had a pump on a trailer.”
The vehicle was new when allocated to the brigade in 1961 but was replaced with something more modern in the early 1990s.
The fire brigade at Athol inherited the fire engine before passing it on to Kaye’s Bakery, in Invercargill.
“That’s when it went to Christchurch.
“It went to the auto wreckers.
“It was parked right at the back of the yard. It had been left outside and it was rusty – the tank had rusted out.
“I was just driving past being nosy.”
He was struck by the “sheer coincidence” and decided the vehicle should be returned to its roots.
“It was a bit lucky – eventually it would have been scrapped.”
He approached the yard owner.
“I said to him ”That’s our old fire engine. How about donating it to its original brigade?”‘
However, the wrecker wanted $2000 and “wasn’t going to shift”.
In the end, the brigade members paid for the vehicle with money from their social fund.
After its stint out in the elements, the truck needed repairing.
George Wilson Engineering, in Invercargill, replaced the 400-gallon water tank and chrome finishing, he said.
This was done free of charge.
The son of a brigade member sorted out the panelbeating and gave the vehicle a fresh coat of paint.
As a fire engine it was not operational as there was no pump on it.
“I don’t think we’d ever put it back.”
However, it was able to be driven.
“It’s still got the original tyres on it.
“The siren still goes got to have the siren.”
The truck was rolled out for events throughout the year.
“At Backyard Beauties it gives the kids a ride.
“It always goes when Santa Claus is here.”