In 1906, six Red Wing men were promoted from within the firefighter ranks to full time paid status. This was largely due to the advances in steam power and fire engineering technology of the time. Red Wing’s first motorized fire apparatus came in 1911. Initially thought to be slower and inferior to the horse, it slowly was considered a technological advancement.
On November 18, 1925 the City of Red Wing purchased an Ahrens-Fox M-S-4 fire apparatus. Considered by many to be one of the finest fire apparatus ever built, it cost the city $13,600. The “Fox” has a 750-gallon per minute pump and a 60 gallon water tank. Approximately 600 of these engines remain today.
The Fox was Red Wing’s fourth motorized apparatus and was “first due” until 1947. It was then assigned to one of the fire departments volunteer companies who ran it until 1967. In 1972, while in reserve status, it was sold to a local company for $1.00. In 1984, the Fox was returned to the Red Wing Fire Department which in turn donated the truck to a Minneapolis museum. Museum volunteers spent many hours attempting to restore the truck but were unable to complete the job because of insufficient funds and a lack of a suitable building to complete the work. In the summer of 2000, as part of the agreement, the Fox was returned to Red Wing on permanent loan. Fortunately, firefighters completed the engine work on their own time using private donations. The Fox was again used as a parade unit participating in a variety of public education activities and city promotions.
Up until 2007, the Fox was drivable and could pump water, but an engine this old seems to require plenty of TLC. With private donations, firefighters continued to fix engine problems. In addition to fuel and exhaust problems, fire department staff discovered a problem with the coolant system which resulted in continued overheating and coolant leaks. The recurrent overheating problem was due to cracked engine cylinders in two of the six cylinders. Fundraising efforts to purchase two used cylinders (the last two known to exist) again came up short.
The Fox then sat in storage with the engine disassembled and in need of repair until 2015 when necessary funding came in the form of a grant from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society. $9,498 was awarded to the city. This grant money, along with the $2,088 from our donation balance, proved to be enough money to get the Fox back on the road. On June 22, 2015 that is exactly what happened. Red Wing Firefighters also provided 128 service hours through in kind donations to complete the project.