Featured Rig

March-April 2003

1967 Crown Firecoach Pumper

"Big John"

Photos and article by Mike Britt

(Click on photos to see bigger images) 

Above, Crown F1526, in the 1970s and early 1980s, with Federal Rotoray "gumball" and hose reels. The white fiberglass top was added to the open cab in the early 1970s.

 Current Owner: Orange County Fire Services Association (OCSFA)
Original Owner: Orange County (CA) Fire Department
OCFSA "Big John" Chair: CFE Member Randy Marsile
Manufacturer: Crown Coach, Los Angeles, CA 
Model: Firecoach pumper (CP-125-109)
Year: 1967
Serial No.: F1526
Orange County Shop Number: 5162
Powerplant: Detroit Diesel 6V92
Original Powerplant: 1091 Hall-Scott gasoline
Transmission: Spicer 5-speed manual
Pump: Waterous centrifugal, rated at 1250 gpm
Tank Capacity: 500 gallons

This 1967 Crown Firecoach pumper has an interesting history and a personal connection to one of our CFE members, Randy Marsile. Randy wears many hats in the fire service. He is the chairperson of the CFE pump-in committe, the group in charge of planning our club's annual event to be held this year on April 27. He is Director of Fire Management for the Southen California Edison Company and presently serves as the President of the 90-year-old Orange County Fire Services Association (OCFSA).

Randy is also the "Big John" chair for OCFSA. "Big John" is the nickname given to this 1967 Crown Firecoach. A plaque on the side of the Crown explains that the rig is dedicated in honor of OCFSA Chaplain, Monsignor John Sammon, who for many decades has served as a fire chaplain in Orange County. Msg. Sammon is so well respected by firefighters that not one but three OCFSA rigs have been dedicated to him over the years (this rig is actually the second "Big John"and there is also a "Little John" antique rig, but that is another article!)

The current "Big John" began its career as Engine 10 (9110) at the County of Orange, CA, Yorba Linda Fire Station. For nearly two decades, this Crown had a Paid-Call Firefigher (PCF) crew and joining Station 10's crew in 1973 was PCF Randy Marsile. Randy later became engineer on Engine 10, getting to know the rig from the drivers seat very well, and eventually was promoted to Station 10 Captain, the position he held when he retired from Orange County Fire.

In the mid-80s, ORC shop#5162 was reassigned for several years to Engine 13 in La Palma, and in 1987, it was sent in for a complete repower and refurbishment. After the refurb was completed, it was assigned to the relief pool as reserve E923 for Battalion 2 (above left photo), Later it became reserve E971 for Battalion 7, where it was kept at Station 40 in Coto de Caza.

When Randy learned that the 1967 Crown was nearing the end of it's service life with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), he set the wheels in motion and eventually convinced the OCFA brass to donate old 9110 to the OCFSA, which it did in May, 2000. Since that time, the rig has become a fire service education ambassador for the OCFSA, visting local schools and making many other public appearances on a regular basis. The rig is outfitted with a stereo and PA system which includes a pre-recorded, interactive fire saftey program narrated by Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as the voice of "Tony the Tiger." But that's not all! The headlights on "Big John" are outfitted with windshield washer hoses, allowing the pumper to shed tears at will (with a little remote-control help) and, of course, the rig's unit number, 9110, contains the three most important fire safety numbers: "9-1-1."

Above left, 9110 was one of many rigs attending the 2001 "Crusin' For a Cure" event held on the runways at the former El Toro Marine Corps Base. Above right, 9110 "Big John" and crew at the 2002 CFE Pump-In, Perris, CA.

Above left, 9110 "Big John" in the apparatus parade during the 2002 SPAAMFAA Winter Convention in San Bernardino, CA. Above right, in the Code 3 Run from Valley Center to San Marcos, Valley Center Fire Safety Expo, October, 2002.


(Above) OCFSA President Randy Marsile (left) holds the microphone for "Big John" namesake, Monsignor John Sammon (right) at the Orange County Fire Service Memorial in Santa Ana on 9/11/02.

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