1967 Pitman Snorkel
Originally from Parsons, Kansas, the Snorkel was purchased in 1999. It was in great shape, just requiring a little cleanup and a new gasket set for the intake manifold. We rebuilt the the main lift cylinders in 2009.
The truck is built on an International chassis, with an International 589 V-8 and manual transmission. It has a 75' Snorkel, a 1000 gpm Waterous pump, and no water tank. The cab was built by Cincinnatti and the bodywork is by Pierce.
The Snorkel was a very popular item in the 60's and 70's. Most major cities had at least one. Today, they have pretty much been replaced by tower ladders.
The Snorkel was invented by the Chicago Fire Department in the late 1950's. The first Snorkel is preserved in the North Charleston, South Carolina fire museum as part of the American LaFrance collection.
An obvious advantage was the ability to reach over the top of buildings or stop at windows and evacuate people or fight a fire. They made excellent water towers.
The taller Snorkels, 85' and higher, had very long overhangs and were tough to get in and out of tight spaces. They also had a limited reach from the street of no more than the length of the upper boom, or 35' to 40'. This limited their usefulness to big cities where the buildings were near the street.
Most have been purchased by tree trimming companies or painting contractors. We are fortunate to have an unmolested example of this very important part of fire apparatus history.
Snorkel type apparatus were made by several companies. Snorkel made theirs in St. Joseph, Missouri on a variety of custom and commercial chassis. American LaFrance made their version called the "Aero Chief". Hy Ranger made one that was easily distinguished by it's lattice style construction. Many of those were built on Ward LaFrance chassis.
On October 19, 2009 Estes Park experienced one of the largest fires in recent history in the center of the downtown business district. The blaze destroyed a 24,000 square foot shopping mall building that dated to the 1920's.
Museum director Doug Klink, an Estes Park volunteer firefighter, was operating a pumper at the fire when the Chief called for ladder trucks from Loveland and Boulder, about 40 minutes away. Estes Park's 75' LTI ladder truck, Ladder 6, was already operating at the fire, protecting the historic Mall Theater building. It was clear more aerial streams were needed.
Doug radioed the Chief and asked if the Snorkel could help and the Chief replied that it would be welcome so Doug brought it to the scene, where it operated at 1000 gpm for about 5 hours, helping to slow the spread of the blaze until the other ladder trucks could arrive.
The Snorkel had operated at a number of public safety events and the Chief was familiar with the unit and the maintenance standards to which all of the Reliance trucks are kept.
All the exposures were saved, and the town is very grateful to not have lost the entire block to the fire.
We are grateful to the Chief and the Town of Estes Park for the opportunity to lend a hand and create even more history for this capable truck.
The Snorkel, operating next to the Volunteer Departments
Out of sight are the other apparatus, that were stationed around the downtown area fighting different angles of this 20,000+ sq foot fire.